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The political economy of precarious work in the tourism industry in small island developing states

Lee, D and Hampton, M and Jeyacheya, J (2015) The political economy of precarious work in the tourism industry in small island developing states. Review of International Political Economy, 22 (1). pp. 194-223. ISSN 0969-2290

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Abstract

International tourism is now the predominant industry driving growth in many small island developing states (SIDS). Governments of small islands in the Indian Ocean, Caribbean and Pacific have seemingly put most of their eggs into one development basket – the all-inclusive holiday in a luxury hotel, resort or cruise ship. While this industry generates employment, foreign direct investment, and income for island governments and the private sector, it also brings with it dependencies which are borne from the transnational ownership of these all-inclusive accommodations, the risks from exogenous factors – many of which are tied to the wider security of the global system – as well as the domestic economies in the source markets in Europe and North America. We reflect upon these dependencies and risks through a case study of the Seychelles based on fieldwork research conducted in 2012. Our findings highlight that the international tourism industry in the Seychelles – even in a situation of high or growing demand – creates structurally driven precarity for tourism workers who are predominantly low paid, low-skilled, and increasingly recruited from overseas. These findings provide new evidence that contributes to the growing research into tourism in IPE. Our findings highlight the precarious condition of labour in this fast growing service sector of the world economy and in so doing also adds much needed empirical insights from the South to recent debates about an emerging precariat in contemporary capitalism.

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