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The Emergence of a Working Poor: Labour Markets, Neoliberalisation and Diverse Economies in Post-Socialist Cities

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This paper examines the transformations of urban labour markets in two central European cities: Bratislava, Slovakia and Kraków, Poland. It highlights the emergence of in-work poverty and labour market segmentation, which together are leading to a reconfiguration of the livelihoods and economic practices of urban households. The focus of the paper is on the growing phenomenon of insecure, poor-quality, contingent labour. It examines the ways in which those who find themselves in, or on the margins of, contingent and insecure labour markets sustain their livelihoods. We ask how such workers and their households negotiate the segmentation of the labour market, the erosion of employment security and the emergence of in-work poverty and explore the diverse economic practices of those who cannot rely solely on formal employment to ensure social reproduction. Further, we assess the articulations between labour market participation and exclusion, and other spheres of economic life, including informal and illegal labour, household social networks, state benefits and the use of material assets. We argue that post-socialist cities are seeing a reconfiguration of class processes, as the materialities and subjectivities of class are remade and as the meaning of work and the livelihoods different forms of labour can sustain are changing.
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Keywords: Poland; Slovakia; cities; labour markets; post-socialism; poverty

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Geography, Queen Mary, University of London, London, UK;, Email: [email protected] 2: Centre for Urban and Regional Development Studies, School of Geography, Politics and Sociology, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK;, Email: [email protected] 3: Department of Geography, Queen Mary, University of London, London, UK and Department of Human Geography and Demogeography, Comenius University, Bratislava, Slovakia;, Email: [email protected] 4: Institute of Geography and Spatial Organization, Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw, Poland;, Email: [email protected]

Publication date: 2008-03-01

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