Guest work as sex work: Some preliminary thoughts on Margaret Radin and black women selling sex across borders

Eleanor Marie Lawrence Brown

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


INTRODUCTION International development policymakers persistently struggle to formulate policies to aid the increasing number of poor and jobless women in developing economies. These efforts are especially urgent because the global financial crisis has displaced many women from the “real” economies of developing countries. Across the developing world, governments have been implementing structural reforms through austerity measures. In developing countries, these measures have consistently led to rising unemployment rates associated with the closing of local firms and – as governments seek to contain their burgeoning debts – the downsizing of government workers.Unsurprisingly, in many developing countries, the poor are finding fewer employment opportunities in traditional sectors such as farming and manufacturing. Alongside rising unemployment rates, safety nets, such as government subsidies, have been reduced. Notably, in many developing coun- tries, disruptions in the hardest hit traditional employment sectors (such as manufacturing) have disproportionately impacted men. Increasingly, women must fill economic roles in families that men traditionally filled. Indeed, women have become primary breadwinners throughout the developing world.Increasingly, women are participating in transnational labor markets, especially in the cash-strapped, debt-ridden Afro-Caribbean countries that constitute North America’s “third border.” Women – who now constitute the majority of the working population in many of these countries – have been displaced from the formal labor markets in large numbers and thus seek work in informal labor markets. This rise in informal employment has caused consternation among international development policymakers. Although informality per se is not a terrible thing, women working in informal labor markets lack the protections of formal labor markets. Moreover, as informal labor markets have become increasingly transnational, informality now poses new challenges. For example, women in informal labor markets are more vulnerable to recruitment by transnational criminal gangs.Although poor women from the developing world have traditionally been regarded as “low-earning and in that regard low value-added individuals … a burden rather than a resource,” they have simultaneously become “significant sources for profit-making, especially in the shadow economy.”

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationBlack Women and International Law
Subtitle of host publicationDeliberate Interactions, Movements, and Actions
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages39
ISBN (Electronic)9781139108751
ISBN (Print)9781107021303
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Social Sciences


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