2/10/2005

A Correction

Several days ago, the blogosphere voiced it's dismay over the story of an unemployed woman in German who was faced with the choice of working in a brothel or losing her unemployment benefits.

A 25-year-old waitress who turned down a job providing "sexual services'' at a brothel in Berlin faces possible cuts to her unemployment benefit under laws introduced this year.

Prostitution was legalised in Germany just over two years ago and brothel owners – who must pay tax and employee health insurance – were granted access to official databases of jobseekers.

The waitress, an unemployed information technology professional, had said that she was willing to work in a bar at night and had worked in a cafe.
Not true, says Snopes, the internet premiere debunker of urban legends. Snopes details where the story originated and how it got mangled.
We were initially skeptical about the literal truth of the version reported in the English press, however, because the issue seemed to have received scant attention in the German press. In fact, the origin of this story was evidently an 18 December 2004 article published in the Berlin newspaper Tageszeitung (also known as TAZ) which did not report that women in Germany must accept employment in brothels or face cuts in their unemployment benefits. (Although it claimed there had been "isolated cases" of such, it did not provide any source or documentation to back up that statement.)

The Tageszeitung merely presented the concept of brothel employment as a technical possibility under current law; it did not provide any actual cases of women losing their benefits over this issue. The article also quoted representatives from employment agencies as saying that while it might be possible for employment agencies to offer jobs as prostitutes to "long-term unemployed" women, they (the agencies) could not require anyone to work in a brothel. (The agencies noted that brothels used "other recruitment channels" anyway.)
I'm relieved to hear that it isn't happening, but I'm disappointed that my BS filters are so poorly calibrated that I didn't immediately recognize this story as hogwash. The Telegraph was the first English-language publication to carry the story, and I made the mistake of assuming that they wouldn't run with a story about a government program that was patently and completely false.

I stand corrected.

Hat tip to Big Sexy Kyle Beckley...