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Title of PhD

Essays on Labour Market and Well-being Constraints facing Sex Workers

Briefly describe your area of research

My research investigates labour market and well-being constraints for women who work as sex workers.

The thesis engages with Nash Bargaining models to theoretically understand economic outcomes under conditions of asymmetric bargaining power. This asymmetry in bargaining power is due to the stigma and legal framework faced by sex workers that strongly limit alternative career options.

Using primary data collected from India through interviews with 247 sex workers, I look at how the bargaining power (i.e. the capacity for negotiation) affects labour market outcomes (such as retained earning, hours worked, labour contract) and well-being outcomes (such as decision-making, mobility, vulnerability to abuse).

Why did you select Reading?

I selected the University of Reading because I was keen to work with my present supervisors.

Dr Marina della Guista is a leading scholar in the area of economics of sex work and Professor Uma Kambhampati is well established as an authoritative researcher in empirical development economics.

I was also attracted to the research focus of the Department of Economics and the interdisciplinary collaborative research of academics here, and believed my research interest fitted very well in this department.

What do you enjoy about studying at Reading?

I have had great opportunities to interact with world-class academics, both from the University and outside, from whom I have learned an incredible amount.

The university helped me set my foot on solid grounds in the academic world, through opportunities for collaborative research and the chance to teach in undergraduate and postgraduate modules.

I also have had excellent exposure to interesting research from around the world, and my department has given me flexibility to build my own research interests and skills. We also have a great international student community and I have made great friends from around the world.

What has been your biggest challenge since starting your research?

My learning curve during my PhD has been very steep, but I enjoyed every moment of it. My fieldwork in the red-light areas of Kolkata and Delhi, India, had challenging moments, which I was able to overcome with guidance from supervisors.

The single biggest challenge after starting my research has been the realisation that the academic market is a dauntingly competitive place. The requirements of the market are ever changing, and researchers need to be constantly aware of what is necessary to make a mark in the minds of possible recruiters.

What advice would you give a new postgraduate researcher?

One has to be strategic, understand the ever-increasing job market demands and prepare themselves for it right from the beginning. It is essential to publish, to attend conferences and to network. However, we are all here for our thirst for knowledge and should make sure that this thirst doesn't get stifled.

We make the best out of this incredible opportunity to engage and contribute to the scholarly tradition of research. Finally, this is a quite a long period of time and life doesn't stop elsewhere for us. It is very important to maintain a healthy work–life balance in this period.

Where do you want to be in five years' time?

In five years' time, I hope to be well established as a lecturer. I enjoy my research and believe I am good teacher. I hope to be involved in solid post-doctoral research projects and contribute in research in my area of work.

I also hope to have developed my teaching skills and have the opportunity to convene my own teaching modules.