Regulatory Worlds

Regulatory Worlds

Cultural and Social Perspectives when North Meets South

Mark Findlay and Lim Si Wei

This ambitious book takes up the grand challenge to design regulatory thinking for a global future beyond wealth and growth, and towards social sustainability. Assuming a ‘South World’ perspective on market regulation and social sustainability, the authors present the options and possibilities for radically repositioning regulatory principle.

Chapter 5: Law’s place in regulating migrant labour markets

Mark Findlay and Lim Si Wei

Subjects: development studies, asian development, development studies, law - academic, regulation and governance, politics and public policy, regulation and governance


The intention of this chapter is to employ the dis-embedded migrant labour market in Singapore to ground the theorizing advanced in the preceding chapter. Specifically, this and the next chapter will juxtapose market conditions which tend to strengthen or strain sustainable social bonding (see chapter 1), focusing on the matrix of markets, morality and the mutualizing of crucial interests such as private property rights and obligations. In the case of dysfunctional labour relations, the chapter examines how exclusionist private property arrangements have led to: (a) the rights and responsibilities set out in employment legislation and specified in labour contracts failing in their higher order regulatory purposes; and (b) the law in principle, relationships and outcomes colluding in the exclusionist private property arrangements which characterize a dis-embedded employment market in which labour power is diminished in its constructive role in social ordering. It is important for the reader to approach the two contexts of migrant labour exploitation in the following case-study by concentrating on the ways in which the commodification of labour power has both dis-embedded migrant (and coincidently unskilled domestic) labour and in so doing threatens to dangerously destabilize the market economy in the medium term (see chapter 3). The chapter will conclude with a brief but compelling account of a conflict which reveals the tragic consequences of dis-embedding, when the tensions underlying labour market inequities override the prevailing mechanical controls over unsustainable market ordering.

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