chain-200Labour and Work in the Global Political Economy

Programme leader: Genevieve LeBaron

This programme encompasses research on labour and work in the global political economy, with a particular emphasis on labour and its regulation within global value chains. Its core focus at present is labour exploitation: by many measures, labour exploitation – including its most severe forms, typically referred to as forced labour, human trafficking, and modern slavery – is on the rise throughout the global economy. SPERI researchers are investigating where, why, and how exploitation manifests itself, why it is more prevalent within some industries and national contexts than others, and what role is played by states and businesses in perpetuating and mitigating exploitation. This programme also has a particular emphasis on the institutional design, implementation and effectiveness of public and private governance mechanisms to combat labour exploitation in transnational production processes. It also connects to research within SPERI on issues around labour organisation and regulation, including employment protection, active labour market policy, the wage share, the power and agency of workers and transnational corporations, and the changing nature and organisation of global production and consumption.

Recent and forthcoming publications:

Ongoing projects:

  • Genevieve LeBaron is conducting research, funded by the ESRC, on the global business models of forced labour. Her project aims to develop an in-depth understanding of how forced labour operates in global supply chains, focusing on the tea and cocoa industries. Genevieve is also convening a British Academy for the Humanities and Social Sciences working group on methods for forced labour research. Finally, supported by grants from the Ford Foundation and ESRC GCRF, she edits the Beyond Slavery section of
  • Jason Heyes and Thomas Hastings are researching varieties of labour market regulation with particular emphasis on strategies relating to labour inspection.  Fieldwork has involved research with labour inspectorates in the UK, Ireland and South Africa. Jason and Thomas are also helping to coordinate a ‘Work, Employment and Labour Administration Network’, which is supported by the International Labour Organization.
  • Kirsty Newsome is conducting research exploring the dynamics of changing work and employment of parcel delivery workers at the end of the global supply chain. This project is part of Kirsty’s wider research interest which is concerned with the position of logistics labour in global production networks.
  • Nicola Phillips pursues research on questions of governance in a global political economy dominated by global value chains, and on issues of labour standards in that context.
  • Andreas Rühmkorf researches the legal aspects of corporate social responsibility, with a particular interest in global supply chains. He is also researching the internationalisation of German corporate governance.