SOAS University of London

Dr Lerche Wins Grant to Study Working Poor in China and India

19 December 2011
Jens Lerche

Dr Jens Lerche of the Development Studies Department and his associates have been awarded a grant for a research project into labour conditions and the working poor in China and India. The £362,778 grant was made by the Economic and Social Research Council and the Department for International Development.

The project will examine labour conditions within garment and construction sectors of China and India, which are the core sectors for the working poor outside agriculture. Running for two years and four months, it will investigate how the working poor in these sectors fared during the global recession and how they are faring now. In China, and, to a lesser extent, in India, labour unrest appears to be on the rise since the global crisis.

The research seeks to identify the sources of this unrest, their relationship to poverty and inequality, and how the labour conditions of workers could be improved. The policy focus will be on the impact of labour regulations, social protection and labour organisation, topics which Dr Lerche said have so far been neglected in poverty analysis.

“Close to half of all labour in the world are poor but we don’t have a detailed on-the-ground understanding of the mechanisms underlying this,” Dr Lerche said. “We are excited that we have been given a chance to research this and potentially contribute to policies aimed at improving their conditions”.

Three of Dr Lerche’s Development Studies colleagues-Dr Dae-Oup Chang, Dr Alessandra Mezzadri and Professor Emeritus Henry Bernstein—are participating in the project, as is Professor Terry McKinley of the Centre for Development Policy and Research. They will be working with Professor Ravi Srivastava from Jawaharlal Nehru University in India and Dr Pun Ngai from Hong Kong Polytechnic University.

Dr Lerche said he was hopeful that this research would produce useful information for both academic and policy-orientated audiences in China, India and the UK, as well as international organisations such as the International Labour Organization and the Asian Development Bank.