Ethnographies of Accommodation and Resistance
Edited by Rob Lambert and Andrew Herod
Chapter 4: Home-based work and new ways of organizing in the era of globalization
Although home-based work pre-dates the industrial revolution, its current features, scale and scope are being dramatically shaped by globalization. Indeed, it is one of the planet’s most rapidly expanding forms of precarious work. Given that few countries collect statistics on home-based work, that definitions vary between countries and that most of the work is informal, it is difficult to give precise numbers of home-based workers worldwide. However, it has been estimated that there are as many as 200 million. Despite the large numbers involved, though, home-based work has largely failed to attract the attention it deserves in terms of trade unions’ activity and research. Principally it has been seen as an outdated form of production, one destined for extinction as economies modernize and develop large-scale industry. However, since the 1970s, as a result of grassroots organizing and research by scholars (especially feminist ones), it has become clear that this form of employment is on the increase in both Global South and Global North countries and that the millions of home-based workers around the world, most of whom are women, make up a growing – if frequently unnoticed – workforce. Far from vanishing, home-based workers in fact constitute an important element of the global economy’s flexible workforce. In this context, our chapter focuses upon some examples of the new ways in which home-based workers are organizing in several different countries.
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