Neoliberal Capitalism and Precarious Work

Neoliberal Capitalism and Precarious Work

Ethnographies of Accommodation and Resistance

Edited by Rob Lambert and Andrew Herod

Since the renaissance of market politics on a global scale, precarious work has become pervasive. Divided into two parts, the first section of this cross-disciplinary book analyses the different forms of precarious work that have arisen over the past thirty years. These transformations are captured in ethnographically orientated chapters on sweatshops; day labour; homework; unpaid contract work of Chinese construction workers; the introduction of insecure contracting in the Korean automotive industry; and the insecurity of Brazilian cane cutters. The editors and contributors then collectively explore trade union initiatives in the face of precarious work and stimulate debate on the issue.

Chapter 10: Sweatshop citizenship, precariousness and organizing building cleaners

Luis L. M. Aguiar

Subjects: geography, human geography, political geography and geopolitics, politics and public policy, political geography and geopolitics, social policy and sociology, labour policy


Arguably, it is to already vulnerable workforces that neoliberalism is doing the most damage (Wills et al. 2010). For example, in the Global North many low-paid public sector workers are suffering from privatization, whilst all workers face contracting out, deregulation, labour law ‘reform’ (Aguiar 2004) and the restructuring of the welfare state (Gustafson 2011). In the Global South many formal and informal sector workers are intensifying their domestic labour to extend meagre incomes and make ends meet. Significantly, in both the Global North and the Global South it is often women who bear the brunt of this process. To highlight the impacts of such restructuring upon just one group of service workers, Bezuidenhout and Fakier (2006, p._50) detail the experiences of a South African woman who worked for the University of the Witwatersrand and who dramatically intensified her domestic labour to compensate for declining wages. She did so by avoiding the expensive pre-prepared foods of supermarkets and instead slaughtered, cleaned and chopped two live chickens she bought per month, as well as baked her own bread. Her story is evocative of that of millions of women across the globe. As Bezuidenhout and Fakier (2006, p._51) note: In order for poor women to ensure the survival of their families on meager incomes, then, they will subsidize the budget for food with their own labour.

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