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Durham University

Durham Law: Policy Engagement

Labour Rights in the 'Precarious Economy'

THE GLOBAL REGULATORY CHALLENGE: EFFECTIVE REGULATION OF PRECARIOUS WORK



In the first half of 20th century, the permanent, full-time and binary employment relationship was the 'Standard Employment Relationship' in industrialized countries. So-called 'non-standard' or 'precarious' jobs, which emerged across the economic North after the 1970s, resulted in widespread concern. In contrast, precariousness had been a long-standing feature of labour markets in the economic South.

‘Precarious work’ is characterized by insecure employment, low wages, discriminatory working conditions and low union density. To eliminate UFW, it is urgent to address these forms of work. Yet in many countries, the Standard Employment Relationship has been the model for labour laws and other protections.




PRECARIOUS WORK REGULATION: A RESEARCH AGENDA

The Strategic Network on Legal Regulation of Unacceptable Forms of work has designed a set of Research Agendas on combatting unacceptable work. The Research Agenda on Labour Rights in the 'Precarious Economy' outlines a strategy to comparatively investigate the effective regulation of precarious work.

The Research Agenda has been designed by a Strategic Network Team that includes researchers and policy actors from across the world:


AN ILLUSTRATION: INDIA AND KOREA

Comparative research on regulatory frameworks is crucial to combat UFW. It can provide global lessons from innovations in different countries. For this reason, the Network Team on Labour Rights in the 'Precarious Economy' suggests that future research should focus on countries in which globally-significant legal reforms have been introduced to improve precarious work.

Korea and India are two important examples. In both countries, non-standard working relations are widespread. Both have adopted pioneering initatives to regulate their 'precarious economies.'

These illustrate the two key regulatory models: the equality approach (Korea) and specific regulation (India). In Korea, legislation protects fixed-term, part-time, and agency workers from discrimination. In the Indian state of Maharashtra, the 'Mathadi Act' protects workers who are employed on a casual basis as 'headloaders' by establishing tripartite Boards of representatives of the workers, employers, and the government.


A GLOBAL RESEARCH AGENDA

For further details, see our global research agenda on labour rights in the 'precarious economy'.

A key resarch question that underpins this agenda is: what are the most effective regulatory strategies to address precarious work?

The goal is to investigate different patterns of precarious and informal work, including through a focus on gender, the role of labour market actors, industrial and workforce structure, innovative practices, and the potential for replication of successful initiatives in other settings.