Cover Image
close this book Daughters of Sysiphus
close this folder Jamaica - A background
View the document Population
View the document Natural hazards and disasters
View the document Economy
View the document Politics
View the document Urban kingston
View the document Historical aspects of the household in Jamaica
View the document Shelter policies
View the document The construction labour force

Urban kingston

Kingston is a vibrant, bustling city that manages to contain the most extreme contrasts of wealth and poverty within a relatively small geographic area. The visiting tourist or person on business will be introduced to the sophisticated high-rise hotels of New Kingston and may be entertained in the spacious and aesthetically attractive homes of affluent Jamaicans living in the foothills of the beautiful Blue Mountains. However, the more adventurous visitor in pursuit of reggae, the music for which Jamaica has become renowned, may find a very different world. For reggae emerged from the urban ghettoes and shanty towns of Kingston as a music of the urban poor and dispossessed. It emerged from settlements characterized by massive youth unemployment, violent political partisanship and a "hustle" economy that has increasingly provided the only really significant hope of individual economic survival for the growing numbers of people who can find no legitimate place within the formal economy.

Within Kingston's low-income settlements it is often women who shoulder the main economic burden. Over 40 per cent of the low-income households in Kingston are headed by women and the unemployment rate of women is nearly twice that of men. As a result, women have traditionally relied on informal markets to generate income and have been particularly successful as vendors. The informal agricultural marketing system in Jamaica is, in fact, almost totally controlled by women known locally as higglers.