Working in the ‘Bleak House’ – an autoethnographic study of ethnic segmentation, precarization and informalization in the London hotel industry | Intellect Skip to content
Volume 3, Issue 1
  • ISSN: 2042-7913
  • E-ISSN: 2042-7921



During the past three decades, the traditional model of the welfare state in advanced economies has been replaced successively by the neo-liberal economic and political model. As a result, global labour markets today are extensively characterized by precariousness, instability, insecurity, vulnerability, risk and, of course, increased exploitation. However, these processes have not affected all segments of the population or all sectors of the economy equally severely. Some groups and individuals, and certain sectors, have been affected worse and earlier than others. This article attempts to demonstrate this through a case study of labour conditions in the London hotel industry in the mid-1980s. Using the author’s personal experience as an empirical point of departure, the article demonstrates how the precarious nature of the work, ethnic segmentation and informal economic arrangements that dominated the London hotel industry at that time were early signs of what were going to become the key characteristics of most economic sectors not only in London and the United Kingdom, but – today – globally.


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