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Dirty, Dangerous and Demeaning (often Dirty, Dangerous and Demanding or Dirty, Dangerous and Difficult), also known as the 3Ds, is an American neologism derived from an Asian concept, and refers to certain kinds of labor often performed by unionized blue-collar workers.

The term originated from the Japanese expression 3K: kitanai, kiken, and kitsui[1], and has subsequently gained widespread use, particularly regarding labor done by migrant workers.

Typically, any task, regardless of industry, can qualify as a 3D job. These jobs can bring higher wages due to a shortage of willing qualified individuals and in many world regions are filled by migrant workers looking for higher wages.[2][3][4][5] For many migrant workers, engaging in high risk, low status work can be a way to escape poverty.


Economic status

Traditionally, workers in 3D professions are well paid,[6] due to the undesirability of the work, and the resulting need to pay higher wages to attract workers.[7][8] This has allowed the uneducated and unskilled to earn a living wage by foregoing comfort, personal safety and social status. This concept proves itself in the economic theory of quantity supplied and quantity demanded (see Quantity adjustment), the wages paid to these workers would always be higher than other wages due to the works undesirability.

However, where there are significant numbers of workers unable to attract other kinds of work, or willing to perform these jobs for low wages, as with high unemployment or poverty driven labour migration, these jobs are not well paid. Large scale international labor migration, from developing to developed countries since the late 19th century and early 20th century has provided a pool of migrants willing to undertake employment for lower wages than native residents. Higher wages in developed countries are a strong 'pull' factor in international migration, and thus a comparatively low-paid 3D job in a developed country may mean a significant increase in wages compared to the originating country.

Prominent current examples of such migration include Filipino entertainment and sex workers who migrate to Japan,[9] and of Indians and Pakistanis going to the Middle East to work in the construction industry.[10] In the United States, 3D occupations once filled by Irish and German immigrants, are today held by many Latin Americans and East Asians. The highest paying work available to these often unskilled and uneducated immigrants is work that is of lower social status, and has a higher risk of injury.

These workers are susceptible to exploitation, and without representation can have a difficult time maintaining fair working wages. Since the beginning of the labor movement, immigrant workers in 3D jobs have formed the backbone of many labor unions.[11]


As the name indicates, dirty, dangerous and demanding work can impose severe physical and mental costs on workers. There is often a risk of early retirement due to injury, general joint depletion or mental fatigue. After witnessing coworkers being killed or injured or suffering permanent mental damage, the stress can cause mental fatigue and post-traumatic stress disorder.


  1. ^ J Connell, 1993, Kitanai, Kitsui and Kiken: The Rise of Labour Migration to Japan, Economic & Regional Restructuring Research Unit, University of Sydney
  2. ^ Phillip Martin, 1996 Migrants on the move in Asia, Asia-Pacific Issues, East West Centre, Washington
  3. ^ M. M. Haque and Ahmad F. Ismail, "Automation in Foundry Kasting Industry", IEEE ICIT’02, Bangkok, THAILAND, 2002 pp 815 -820
  4. ^ Roberts K. D., "The determinants of job choice by rural labor migrants in Shanghai" China Economic Review, Volume 12, Issue 1, Spring 2001, Pages 15-39
  5. ^
  6. ^ United States National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates
  7. ^ PIELAMI Project Report 2006 [1]
  8. ^ Joohee Lee "Income Assistance and Employment Creation through Public Works in Korea: Labor Market Reforms in Korea: Policy Options for the Future" Korea Labor Institute 2001.
  9. ^ Mrajua M.B.Asis, Recent trends in Population Migration in Asia and the Pacific, Asia Pacific Population Journal, v3 n20, December 2005, United Nations Econimic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific
  10. ^ Daniel Attas, The Case of Guest Workers: Exploitation, Citizenship and Economic Rights, v6 n1, January 2000, Springer
  11. ^ Christian Karl "Migrant Worker Union and Immigration Officers Face Off" International Sec. ETU-MB, 08/01/04

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