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Cathy McIlwaine and Megan Ryburn

This chapter explores the nature of transnational urban labour markets from the perspective of migrant labour with a specific focus on low-paid exploitative work in both Global North and South. Conceptually, the chapter assesses the utility of some core conceptual tools in understanding transnational urban labour markets with an explicit focus on learning from the Global South as a key element of this process. In doing so, we analyse the nature of transnational migrant divisions of labour, precarity and precarious employment in relation to a continuum of labour exploitation, as well as deskilling and occupational mobilities among migrants. While much research on these theorisations of metropolitan mobilities has focused on cities of the Global North, we suggest that these play across North and South in transnational ways. This is linked with the global nature of the transnational movement of goods, capital and people, the volume of international migrants moving from cities in the South to those in the North, and the importance of South–South flows of migrant workers. The chapter draws empirically on analyses of migrant workers in London, especially Latin Americans, and makes reference to Bolivian migrants residing in Santiago, Chile to highlight how ‘metropolitan mobilities’ are deeply imbued by global, transnational and intersectional inequalities and exploitative labour relations but also that migrant workers also exercise their agency as they move.

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Kavita Datta, Cathy McIlwaine, Joanna Herbert, Yara Evans, Jon May and Jane Wills