SOAS University of London

Department of Development Studies

The working poor and development

Module Code:
Taught in:
Term 2
The aim of this module is to enable students to understand the interaction between ‘the working poor’ and ‘development’ and, as part of this, to understand how a development approach which focuses on labouring groups differs conceptually from a perspective focussing on poverty, and leads to different developmental solutions. To do so, the module will consider conceptual issues relating to labour and development, and historical aspects of labour and capitalist development in Europe and the South. It will analyse globalisation, neo-liberalism and labour, and related competing theories including differences between poverty and labour focussed approaches. It will discuss policy approaches to the working poor including ILO’s ‘decent work’ approach, Corporate Social Responsibility and international union approaches, as well as struggles of and for the working poor by organised labour and social movements. Both mainstream and heterodox approaches will be investigated.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

At the end of this module a student should be able to demonstrate:

  • an understanding of the major and minor strands in debates on the working poor and development 
  • an ability to analyse and compare mainstream and heterodox approaches 
  • an ability to apply both theory and methodology in constructing a critical analysis of the issues for a particular country


Teaching takes place through a weekly 1 hour lecture and 1 hour tutorial.

Method of assessment

100% coursework. Each student will be expected to submit one essay worth 60% and write a news article worth 40% of the final grade. Resubmission of coursework regulations apply.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules