SOAS University of London

Labour Conditions and the Working Poor in China and India 2011-2014

The Labour Conditions and the Working Poor in China and India project is taking place over 34 months from 2011-2014, and is funded by ‘ESRC/DFID Phase 2’.

Principal investigator: Dr. Jens Lerche, SOAS

Co-Investigators: Professor Terry McKinley (SOAS), Dr. Alessandra Mezzadri (SOAS). Dr. Dae-Oup Chang (SOAS), Professor Ravi Srivastava (Jawaharlal Nehru University), Dr. Pun Ngai (Hong Kong Polytechnic University)

The research project examines labour conditions at firm level in Shanghai and Delhi; both cities swept up in strong export-led growth. The research focuses on the garment and construction sectors, the core sectors for the working poor outside agriculture. The project investigates how the working poor in these sectors fared from the global recession to date. The objective is to examine underlying reasons for labour conditions and labour unrest, including poverty and inequality.

Research in this field lacks investigation at the firm level. Here the significance of firm-level determinants of labour conditions and contracting such as orientation of production (towards export/domestic markets), the degree of subcontracting and casual labour, and the type of ownership, are the focus.

Through intensive fieldwork carried out principally by national researchers, the project first maps the general trends within the sectors, their firms and labour forces. Some 120 firms representing the range of firm-level characteristics in relation to labour contracting and conditions, labour regulations and labour organisation will then be selected. Extensive interviews with firm managers, labour subcontractors, union representatives and workers will be carried out in the main fieldwork phase.

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