Seeking work daily: supply, demand, and spatial dimensions of day labor in two global cities.

Valenzuela Jr, Abel, Janette A. Kawachi, and Matthew D. Marr.

International Journal of Comparative Sociology 43, no. 2 (2002): 192-219.


Day labor, the industry in which workers, primarily men, seek temporary employment daily in open-air street markets or curb-side hiring sites, is a burgeoning market in the United States and a historically important, but declining industry in Japan. Using data from surveys of day laborers in Tokyo and Los Angeles, we analyze the unique characteristics of these two markets, comparing and contrasting the workers, the demand for their employment, and the spatial dimensions of this industry. We find that day laborers in Los Angeles are predominantly young, recent immigrants undertaking varied jobs. In contrast, day laborers in Tokyo are aging and mostly native Japanese displaced from Japan’s slouching post-industrial economy. Demand for day labor is equally contrasting. In Los Angeles, employers are more diversified, associated with a network of industries, and a consumer base that is broad and elastic. On the other hand, employers in Tokyo are overwhelmingly in construction and day laborers only cater to sub-contractors or middlemen. We speculate on the future of day labor in both cities.

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