NPR logo Illegal Sex And Drugs Pay Off For Britain

Illegal Sex And Drugs Pay Off For Britain

London's busy red-light area. Lewis Whyld/PA Photos /Landov hide caption

toggle caption
Lewis Whyld/PA Photos /Landov

London's busy red-light area.

Lewis Whyld/PA Photos /Landov

Normally we wouldn't give much thought to the fact that Britain has surpassed France as the world's fifth-largest economy. But this story caught our attention: It was the way in which Britain snagged the higher spot.

The amount that Britains spend on prostitutes and illegal drugs has boosted the country in the rankings, according to the independent forecasting group, the Centre for Economics and Business Research. As a result of the new calculations — it is the first year the U.K. has included the figures — Britain's GDP rose to $2.82 trillion in 2014, up from $2.53 trillion the previous year.

France currently does not include the economic benefits of sex work and drug dealing in its calculations. If it did, it might have held on to its coveted 5th place standing, the Centre's report noted.

Britain decided to include the seedy side of its economic growth after the European Union changed accounting rules last September. Accountants, however, stress that it's mostly smoke and mirrors.

Eric Dubois, director of France's statistics office, the INSEE, told the Telegraph newspaper that such commercial activities were not voluntary, and therefore it will not comply with the new EU rules. He said that prostitution was the result of "Mafia networks and trafficking illegal immigrants."

NPR thanks our sponsors
Correction Dec. 27, 2014

A previous version of this story incorrectly said Britain's GDP rose to $2.82 billion from $2.53. It rose to $2.82 trillion from $2.53 trillion.