Growth of 'global cities' in the 1980s was supposed to have involved an occupational polarisation, including growth of low paid service jobs. Though held to be untrue for European cities, at the time, some such growth did emerge in London a decade later than first reported for New York. The question is whether there was simply a delay before London conformed to the global city model, or whether another distinct cause was at work in both cases.
This paper proposes that the critical factor in both cases was actually an upsurge of immigration from poor countries providing an elastic supply of cheap labour. This hypothesis and its counterpart based on growth in elite jobs are tested econometrically for the British case with regional data spanning 1975-2008, finding some support for both effects, but with immigration from poor countries as the crucial influence in late 1990s London.