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Germany

Barely Legal and Already Paying Tax

The world’s oldest profession is a booming business. Germany has an estimated 400,000 prostitutes, whose services are used 1.2 million times a day. A new law gives them new rights and new obligations.

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The tax man always rings twice

Prostitution is legal in Germany and prostitutes' earnings were always liable to tax. At the same time, sexual services were legally declared "immoral," which left the people in the trade to work as free agents. No questions asked.

A new law passed by parliament last year gives prostitutes the right to claim social security, health insurance and a pension. It also allows them to pursue customers who refuse to pay through the courts. A real bonus in a shady business.

In reality, of course, the business has its own rules and the idea of going to court seems a bit like a contradiction in terms. But that could change.

Prostitutes working in a Berlin brothel have been offered employment contracts with a 40-hour working week and a profit-sharing scheme.

Cafe what?

Felicitas Weigmann, the owner of the posh brothel "Cafe Pssst!", has drawn up the first job contracts for her staff in Berlin the daily tabloid Bild newspaper said on Monday.

In exchange for a regular 40-hour week, prostitutes at "Cafe Pssst!" are entitled to a basic wage of 600 euro per month plus a "profit sharing" payment of 40 euro per client.

They can however, choose to remain free agents without a contract.

So far, none of the ladies of Cafe Pssst! have signed the document. In fact, not a single lady of the night has done so in the entire republic.

The reasons are obvious to anyone in the business.

Would a prostitute working on a contract have to service three, four or five punters a shift? Can she refuse certain unsavoury practices? Can the owner of the brothel fix the prices? All these questions remain unclear.

The girls themselves don’t believe they benefit either. Signing a contract would require them to identify themselves. And that is the last thing they want.

"I already pay enough taxes," says "Petra" of Cafe Psst! She is talking about the tax she pays on cigarettes and alcohol.

And "Kati" is worried that the tax man might ask her about her earnings before the new law came into force.

An issue that is also as yet unclear.

So while Germany’s parliament has given prostitutes new employment rights, the new law hasn’t made life any easier for the girls on the game.