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Durham University

Durham Law: Policy Engagement

The Decent Work Regulation Project

The Project on Decent Work Regulation (DWR) responds to UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 8, which promotes inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment and decent work for all. To achieve these objectives, effective labour regulation is crucial. Strong labour laws are a vital component of development policies, capable of supporting inclusive growth, sustainable prosperity, and the well-being of workers and their families.

Despite effective labour regulation being one of the most pressing challenges of the twenty-first century, regulatory strategies towards productive and protected working lives remain underdeveloped. There is substantial potential for innovative laws that can effectively achieve decent work – especially in Low and Middle Income Countries (LMICs).

In response to this demand, the DWR Project supports a set of linked research and policy activities towards understanding and improving labour market regulation across the world.

Unacceptable Forms of Work (2017-18)

The DWR Project builds on the work of the ESRC/GCRF Strategic Network on Legal Regulation of Unacceptable Forms of Work (UFW) (2017). Funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) through the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF), the project initiated a global network that now includes more than 60 research and policy bodies in 20 countries across the world.

The Project generated a set of Research Agendas on regulatory challenges that are present in both the global North and South. Outlined in a 2018 report, these include casual work in a range of forms (e.g. “day labour”, “zero hours contracts”, “on-call work”); forced labour; informal employment; the prevalence of violence and harassment in certain jobs and sectors, including in the care sector and in domestic work; and the weak enforcement of labour standards.

Decent Work Regulation in Africa (2018-19)

In 2018, the DWR Project launched Decent Work Regulation in Africa (DWR-Africa). The Project was centred on effective regulatory strategies for decent work in the in southern Africa, with a particular focus on the garment sector. Funded by Durham University (UK) through the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE)/Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF), the Project was a collaboration between Durham University (UK), the University of Cape Town (South Africa) and York University (Canada).

DWR-Africa established a regional network ofresearchers and stakeholders in southernAfrica, conducted research on challenges tolabour law enforcement in the region, andgenerated recommendations for research andregulatory policy.


Labour/Data Justice (2019-21)

The DWR Project has reached a new stage in 2020-21, in which it will focus on the design and implementation of regulatory frameworks that respond to the digitization of working life.

A first phase of the Project will investigate novel law-centred initiatives to secure decent work for domestic workers in Mexico. The focus is on the rapid digitisation of the sector and the challenges it poses for labour/data justice. More broadly, we are interested in the role of labour regulation in sustainable development within a context of digital transformation of working life.

Download: DWR Project Note