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London's migrant division of labour

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)257-271
Number of pages15
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2009

King's Authors


This article is located in the maelstrom of debate about immigration and employment in the contemporary economy. The article presents original analysis of data from the Labour Force Survey and a workplace case-study in the cleaning sector to highlight growing employer dependence on a very diverse pool of foreign-born labour. The article explains such dependency by drawing on interview material collected from employers, employers' associations, community organizations and policymakers. In sum, we argue that London's Migrant Division of Labour (MDL) is a product of the semi-autonomous actions taken by employers, workers and government in the particular context of London. Understanding the MDL thus needs to encompass employer demand, migrants' 'dual frame of reference' and limited access to benefits, as well as employers' preference for foreign-born workers over 'native' labour supply.The state is also argued to play a critical role in this employment, determining the nature and terms of immigration, the accessibility and levels of benefits, and employment regulation. London's MDL is shown to intersect with, and in some cases overturn, existing patterns of labour market segmentation on the basis of human capital (class), ethnicity and gender.

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