Urban Labour and Livelihoods: Women, Postcolonial Developmental Governance and Rapid Employment Programmes in Honiara and Port Moresby

  • Anita Lacey
Part of the Gender, Development and Social Change book series (GDSC)


The World Bank’s Rapid Employment Programmes (REPs) in Honiara and Port Moresby govern urban and peri-urban women as productive /unproductive, at risk and vulnerable, and call them to participate in the formal employment sector in the name of development. Women’s labour, livelihoods and responsibilities are imagined to be practiced in narrowly productive and transformative ways by the proponents of these work schemes. The urban site of the programmes and urbanization itself and the challenges and opportunities afforded by urbanization patterns in these two locations are central too to the REPs as development solutions. Vitally, they are urban programmes in their imagining and deployment and are premised on the dangers of rapid urbanization and the potential of the market to mitigate against these dangers, to shape the informal towards the formal. I argue that the development programmes and their actors, importantly including the women themselves, are engaged in a myriad of interwoven advanced liberal and postcolonial biopolitical governance practices. The recognition by leading development agencies in urban settings like Port Moresby and Honiara of the complexity of development recipients’ lives could act as a vital first step towards gender justice-based development solutions. Recognition would then need to be matched with a desire to engage with this complexity in project design and deployment. Certainly, the World Bank’s REPs in Honiara and Port Moresby are informed by research at the community level, but an assumption of the transformative nature of formal cash-based labour perhaps precludes other possibilities and the recognition of centrality of informal and formal labour to participants’ lives.


Honiara Port Moresby Recipient Development Leading Development Agencies Basic Income Grant 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This research was funded by the University of Auckland Faculty Research Development Fund (Faculty of Arts) and was conducted with ethical clearance from the University of Auckland Human Participants Ethics Committee (8970). The author would like to gratefully acknowledge the participation of all interview participants and the critical engagement of her colleagues in earlier versions of this chapter.


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© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anita Lacey
    • 1
  1. 1.Politics and International RelationsUniversity of AucklandAucklandNew Zealand

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