AAS Annual Meeting

Interarea/Border-Crossing Session 349

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Session 349: Changing Forms of Labour Organizations

An Assessment of Deprivation Involved in Child Labour and Child Work in India
Saswati Das, Independent Scholar, India

Child labour still is a serious problem in developing countries in the arena of social and economic justice. Acording to the estimates of International Labour Organisation, about 181 million children (95 per cent of the world) under age 15 are engaged in economic activities in developing countries. Under normal circumstances a child is expected to gain some training through proper schooling along with some hand-on practical experiences which would help him/her to earn more in future. So, early entry in labour market implies a compromise with the extent of human-capital formation and a corresponding loss in future earning. On the other hand excessive engagement in domestic chore may also have its adverse implications on proper physical and mental development of the child. The current literature concentrates excessively on the child labour problem and this dormant issue of child work is rather under-attended so far. In present exercise a household level analysis has been carried out to assess deprivation for both child labour and child work in terms of denial of normal childhood experiences. The data-base utilized for the analysis is extracted from two large sample surveys on ‘Employment and Unemployment Situation in India’, conducted during 1999-2000 and 2004-2005 by National Sample Survey Organization. The study is a pioneering one adding a new dimension to the existing literature. It indicates that extent of deprivation to the society from child work is much higher than that for child labour alone and this difference bears serious gender implication.

Competing Approaches to Child Domestic Work in Asian Developing Countries: Evidence from the Case Study in Vietnam
Thanh Mai Le, Waseda University, Japan

Child labour is a sensitive subject and numbers regarding its magnitude play an important role in global policy-making and advocacy efforts. It is estimated that in 2004 there were about 211 million children aged 5-14 years who were at work in an economic activity in the world. Out of these, with 127.3 million in total, the Asia-Pacific region harbours the largest number of child workers in this particular age group. In fact, due to economic and social changes as well as cultural factors, it is widespread to find young children working as child domestic workers (CDWs) in many Asian countries. The paper will, first, attempt to conceptualise and contextualise child domestics in Asian developing countries by looking at the definition of CDWs, the profiles of these children, and the main reasons for them to work as child domestic servants. Then, the study will examine the debate among competing schools of thought to combat child domestic work with their explanatory theoretical arguments, and seek to justify and strengthen the significance of the multi-faceted approach based on liberal paternalist theory, which removes child domestic labourers from the most abusive cases, and humanises the working condition for those already at work. The third part of the paper will look at the living and working conditions of child domestics in Vietnam as the single case study, and attempt to reveal the relevance and significance in adopting the alternative differentiated approach to combat child domestic work in Asian developing countries.

Demise of Korean Worker’s Movement?
Suk-Man Hwang, Independent Scholar, South Korea

Many scholars considered Korean workers docile until 1980's; however, they suddenly became extremely militant during 1980s, especially, after 1987. This unexpected rise has seemed to be subdued again during late 1990s and notably after the election of President Lee Myung-bak, a conservative politician, in 2007. This paper will review the trend and attempt to identify the factors influenced on fluctuation of the power of workers with the special focus on global factor.

Managing the Meanings of "Haken": The Structuration of Temporary Dispatched Work in Neoliberal Japan
Shinji Kojima, Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University, Japan

This paper examines how Japanese temporary dispatched workers ("haken" workers) engage their work and negotiate its meaning. Growing studies on temporary work in Japan and elsewhere have documented the deprivations these workers face: job insecurity, low pay, lack of benefits, and low social status. However, relatively little is known about how individual workers interpret these structural and cultural deprivations, and how they respond to their workplace conditions on a daily basis. This study draws on data collected from participant observation as a "haken" worker in an auto-parts factory in the summer of 2008 and in-depth interviews with these workers. I identify the processes of workers' responses to their poor working conditions and the ironic consequences that follow. I find that "haken" workers work hard, sometimes pushing themselves beyond the expectations of management, despite the absence of structural incentives that are commonly understood to motivate regularly employed factory workers. The question then, is why do "haken" workers work as hard as they do? I argue that "haken" workers engage in micro-level struggles against the deprivations they face. The convergence of particular circumstances of job insecurity, competition, and low social status under the neoliberal economy produces a culture of hard work, antipathy, and isolation among haken workers on the shop floor. Individual workers' struggles take the form not of struggle against the management, but rather of isolated struggles to find meaning and dignity in their daily tasks. The ironic consequence is an arrangement ideally suited to the interests of capital.

Measured Invisibility: Ghumauri and the Challenges of Worker Organizing within Fair Trade Certified Plantation Systems
Debarati Sen, Kennesaw State University, USA

The Fair Trade movement has gained significant popularity in the West as a market based tool to mitigate the plight of marginalized producers in a global economy. Fair Trade certifying bodies select plantations with established labor unions for Fair Trade benefits, but are often oblivious to the actual workings of unions. In this paper, I propose, that women workers in Darjeeling’s tea plantations, in spite of being members of labor unions, have found novel ways of mitigating their work-based needs. They practice what I call a “measured invisibility” of their organizing, devoting more time to women only clandestine groups, which have no connection to labor unions or the Fair Trade movement. My research findings, based on eighteen months of intensive fieldwork in Darjeeling, India, indicate clandestine organizing within many plantations—found in the Ghumauri groups. There is no existing literature on these local revolving credit groups among women plantation workers in Darjeeling, but far from being ways to stretch the abysmally low wage (in a Fair Trade certified plantation) these groups provide critical mentoring for women on labor dynamics, which they find lacking in current unions. Women plantation workers are publicized as the real subjects of Fair Trade in need for rescue from unjust plantation labor practices; and celebrated as the movement’s real beneficiaries. However, women workers categorically conceal their real concerns from Fair Trade, by practicing a level of measured invisibility. The paper explores why such measured invisibility becomes a requirement in a fair workplace.