Edited by Ben Derudder, Michael Hoyler, Peter J. Taylor and Frank Witlox
Chapter 35: Global Workers for Global Cities: Low Paid Migrant Labour in London
Kavita Datta, Cathy McIlwaine, Joanna Herbert, Yara Evans, Jon May and Jane Wills INTRODUCTION Global cities have an uneasy relationship with migrant workers. There is a growing recognition that they are crucially dependent upon migrant workers, both those who work in top end highly skilled jobs which give global cities a competitive edge over their rivals, but also in bottom end service sector jobs such as cleaning, hospitality, care, construction and food processing which literally keep these cities working. Yet, those who are employed in these low pay sectors are often invisible – they clean our schools and offices before we arrive, our underground and trains while we are hastily exiting, and care for our children and elderly relatives while we are at work. As a result, their vital contributions to the functioning of global cities are largely unrecognized and certainly undervalued by the societies to which they have migrated. Drawing upon a three year project, Global Cities at Work, this chapter has two aims: first, it identifies the processes through which London’s low wage economy has come to rely upon migrant men and women originating from diverse parts of the world; second, it seeks to make these workers visible by highlighting their contributions and working conditions. The chapter draws upon original empirical data collected through the deployment of a mixed methods approach including a questionnaire survey of over 400 workers employed in five migrant dependent sectors of London’s low pay economy: cleaning (offices and London Underground), hospitality (hotels and catering)...
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