Urbanisation and Unemployment

  • Guy Standing
Part of the ILO Studies book series


Historically, urban population and employment growth in Jamaica was restricted by the dominant plantation mode of production. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries the colonial government discouraged the establishment and expansion of towns, since any drift to urban areas depleted the supply of labour to the estates. Thus one eighteenth century commission set the tone when it allowed several ports to be established “provided the said Act will not encourage the Inhabitants to reside in Towns, and there set up Manufactures for the Supply of their own Necessities… “[1] But in the nineteenth century the drift to urban areas gathered momentum after Emancipation, despite attempts to control it. This reflected rural stagnation and the low wages and poor working conditions on the estates. Because wages were low and uncertain even landless labourers rejected estate employment and moved to the towns. [2] As one observer commented, in describing rural-urban migration in the mid-nineteenth century, “I do not doubt that many proprietors really suffer from the partiality of young men to towns; but at the same time I do not doubt that many of these young men prefer, and very naturally prefer, the greater certainty of regular employment that town business offers”. [3]


Labour Force Wage Rate Labour Force Participation Migrant Woman Labour Force Survey 
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    Quoted in F.W. Pitman: The Development of the British West Indies, 1700–1763 (New Haven, Yale University Press, 1971), p. 20.Google Scholar
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    Tekse, 1968, op. cit. The role and performance of the Government Employment Service is discussed in a paper submitted to the National Planning Agency in 1974. G. Standing: “Registered unemployment in Kingston” (Kingston, National Planning Agency, 1974).Google Scholar

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© International Labour Organisation 1981

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  • Guy Standing

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