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Contradictory socio-economic consequences of structural adjustment in Kingston, Jamaica

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Since the early 1980s, the introduction of International Monetary Fund-directed structural adjustment packages to stabilize the Jamaican economy has reduced the scope of the government, cut back its capacity to intervene in the housing market, opened the economy to foreign goods (but limited capital), and re-produced the colonial version of a non-dynamic, labour-surplus urban economy in Kingston. This paper traces the impact of structural adjustment on unemployment and class formation in Kingston, and the relationship of these issues to housing problems. Rented, poor-quality housing, underpinned by low socio-economic status and historically high rates of unemployment, has created an overt spatial concentration of poverty, located in West and East Kingston. Nevertheless, overall unemployment is currently lower than at independence in 1962, and virtually all housing indicators have recorded improvements over the same time period. These improvements have been due to a deceleration in the growth of Kingston's population since the mid-1960s; government commitment, despite structural adjustment, to improve the quality of collective consumption; and the determination of Kingston's citizens to build better homes for themselves, often aided by loans from local building societies and remittances from family members resident overseas. However, at least a quarter of Kingston's population remains both unemployed and concentrated into areas of poor quality housing. These circumstances in Kingston are compared with those in adjacent Latin American cites under structural adjustment.
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Keywords: Jamaica; census analysis; employment; housing; structural adjustment

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: School of Geography and the Environment, Oxford University, Oxford OX1 3TB, Email: [email protected] 2: Institute of Geography, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh EH8 9XP, Email: [email protected]

Publication date: 01 June 2006

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