Globalisation: how the labour market is responding

Dr Maurizio Atzeni

The response of labour forces to globalisation, and worker’s collective action in particular, was the topic of discussion during a 12 March seminar delivered by Centre for Work, Organisation and Wellbeing guest, Dr Maurizio Atzeni.

‘Globalisation’ refers to the relationships between people and places within a country or across continents, and their propensity to foster or detract growth. These relationships may be built around virtual transactions or material ones. The change in labour markets in response to these developments has highlighted a range of inadequate conceptualisations around what work itself now is, comments Dr Atzeni; and globalisation itself has played a part:

“The movement and delocalisation of factories, the industrialisation or de-industrialisation of countries, the emergence of new economies like south Asia, and an increase in service-orientated activities” are but a few examples.

In response, Maurizio highlights how more research is being conducted to include broader categories of workers, such as those in retail, call centres, and unregulated, unproductive and unrepresented industries; a focus on the mobility of, and space in which, work is executed; the impact of citizenship on employment; the impact of the labour force’s relationship with worker’s social lives; and that which moves beyond the premise of work as only a ‘waged’ practice.

The impact of workers on social change also featured as part of the seminar presentation:

“Workers should…be looked at as a group of people who have a say in society”, suggests Maurizio.

And not just through the lens of unions: the impact of self-activity, community, and global unionism feature as result.

In concluding, Dr Atzeni highlighted researcher’s capacities to seek out connections — or the absence thereof — between the global value chain and how workers operate in different parts of the world when working for the same chain. Workforce organisation in global cities such as London and New York, and the place of ‘informal’ work in them also warrants investigation, he says, as does the organisation of strategic industries like transport and logistics.

Dr Atzeni is working as part of a project funded for three years by aMarie Curie International Outgoing Fellowship from the European Research Agency. He is a Lecturer in Labour and Industrial Relations at Loughborough University, UK, and a member of the Study and Work Organizations program at the Center for Labor Studies and Research CONICET in Buenos Aires, Argentina.