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Durham Law: Policy Engagement

UFW Global Research Agendas

The ESRC/GCRF Strategic Network on Legal Regulation of Unacceptable Forms of Work has identifed a set of Global Challenges to effective labour regulation. These are the most urgent and complex issues that face lower-income countries in particular in upgrading or eliminating unacceptable forms of work.

Network Teams composed of researchers from a range of discplines and national and international policy actors have produced research agendas to address each Global Challenge.


CASUAL WORK: A GLOBAL RESEARCH AGENDA

In most countries, legal frameworks have failed to keep pace with such rapid changes in employment systems. This has contributed to a lack of labour protections for casual workers.

The Research Agenda on Casual Work outlines a strategy to generate a global account of the rise of casual work and to identify effective state and civil society responses.

The objectives of this research agenda are:

  • to map types of casual work and assess their prevalence;
  • to examine the extent to which violations of labour standardsoccur within each form of casual work;
  • to identify and evaluate the rules that govern casual work, including legislative instruments and collective agreements; and
  • to document the most significant policy and civil-society responses.

EXTENDING FORCED LABOUR INITIATIVES: A GLOBAL RESEARCH AGENDA

The Research Agenda on Extending Forced Labour Initiatives outlines a strategy for investigating how to extend or adapt forced labour frameworks to tackle other forms of UFW.

The objectives of this research agenda are:

  • to identify flagship legal initiatives on forced labour, with a particular focus on supply chain accountability mechanisms;
  • to determine which elements of these frameworks are effective in prompting firms to develop due diligence practices;
  • to identify the kinds of labour enforcement activities that are needed;
  • to establish a new paradigm of business responsibilities to prevent UFW in supply chains.

RECRUITMENT IN GLOBAL VALUE CHAINS: A GLOBAL RESEARCH AGENDA

The Research Agenda on Recruitment in Global Value Chains outlines a strategy for investigating the influence of hiring practices on the form and quality of employment relationships along GVCs.

The key objective of the research agenda is to better understand the various ways in which recruitment impacts the likelihood and extent of UFW.

The Network Team has identified key dimensions of recruitment that are likely to have an impact:

  • worker motivation to be recruited;
  • type of recruiter;
  • procedures and practices of the hiring firm;
  • debt;
  • GVC dynamics.

ENFORCING LABOUR LAWS: A GLOBAL RESEARCH AGENDA

Hybrid models seem to be promising for the effective implementation of labour standards. Yet they have not been rigorously investigated from the perspective of those intended to benefit: workers.

The Research Agenda on Enforcing Labour Laws outlines a strategy for investigating the effectiveness of hybrid models of enforcement.

The objective of the research agenda is to understand the strengths and limitations of hybrid mechanisms in enforcing labour rights in lower-income countries.

Key questions include:

  • What role do local actors play in ensuring labour standards enforcement (e.g. unions, governments, NGOs)?
  • What is the role of trade and the legal/regulatory framework?
  • What are the conditions under which hybrid models can work?
  • What is the most effective way of ensuring that lead firms are directly involved in compliance by their suppliers?

PRECARIOUS WORK REGULATION: A GLOBAL RESEARCH AGENDA

The Research Agenda on Labour Rights in the 'Precarious Economy' outlines a strategy to comparatively investigate the effective regulation of precarious work.

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.


LAW'S DYNAMIC EFFECTS: A GLOBAL RESEARCH AGENDA

Institutional dynamism is a potential gateway to improved protective outcomes. It has particular potential for the regulation of UFW in low-income settings - by extending the reach of legislated standards without costly investgments in labour inspection and enforcement. Yet the operation of law's dynamics effects needs further investigation.

The Research Agenda on Law's Dynamic Effects proposes a research strategy to investigate how institutional dynamism can be incorporated into decent work policies.

The agenda identifies a set of key resarch questions:

  • what regulatory frameworks and mechanisms can trigger and enhance dynamic effects?
  • which legal standards demonstrate dynamic effects e.g. rules on minimum wages, working hours, rest periods?
  • can these dynamics be enhanced and harnessed for policy objectives through the design and implementation of regulatory fraemworks or by actor strategies?

INNOVATIVE COLLECTIVE REPRESENTATION: A GLOBAL RESEARCH AGENDA

The Research Agenda on Innovative Collective Representation proposes a strategy to investigate and respond to the challenge of effective representation, with a focus on strategies to improve low-quality jobs.

The objective is to identify and investigate innovative structures and strategies of collective representation. The focus is on bargaining strategies, innovative institutions, and the emergence of new models of collective representation, including of informal workers.

A particular focus is the gap between working conditions in small/micro-enterprises and with larger employers.


VIOLENCE AND HARASSMENT IN THE CARE ECONOMY: A GLOBAL RESEARCH AGENDA

The Research Agenda on Violence and Harassment in the Care Economy outlines a strategy to achieve progressive change in regulation to ensure both better care and decent working conditions.

Key questions include:

  • how do employment laws treat workplaces that are also private homes?
  • how do employment laws privilege notions of a standard (and masculinised) employment relationship to the detriment of care workers and care recipients?
  • can a focus on GBC promote a broader understanding of the potential of regulatory tools e.g. OSH, equality laws, care quality regulations?
  • to what extent can policies on casualisation, low pay and insecurity eliminate the threat or fear of GBC?

INFORMAL WORK LABOUR REGULATION: A GLOBAL RESEARCH AGENDA

To make labour laws effective in practice, policy makers need to address the factors which are delaying the transition to a formal economy and leading to the informalisation of previously stable and secure jobs.

Informality is both a predominant feature of low-income countries, and an ever more present reality more advanced economies. Yet there is no uniformity in statistical categorisations of the informal labour market.

The UFW Research Agenda on Informal Work and Labour Regulation has been designed to address this challenge.

The key research questions include:

  • is it helpful to use the generic term 'informal work' to identify the different features of work relations currently characterised as informal?
  • what is the relationship between 'informal work,' non-standard employment' and 'precarious work'?
  • is labour informality increasing or decreasing worldwide?
  • does economic growth on its own reduce informal work? if not, which policies are conducive to growth-led strategies to reduce informal work?
  • what is the relationship between labour regulation and informality?