Work, Livelihood Strategies and Economic Security in the Twenty-first century

The aim of this research is two-fold

To identify the new sources of power and the new forms of organisation that are emerging amongst informal workers in India and South Africa; to develop a policy framework for the implementation of a decent work agenda in developing countries such as India and South Africa. 

Problem Statement

Growing unemployment and its impact on poverty is the central challenge in developing countries where formal employment can be less than 10% of the economically active population. The growing informalisation of work is eroding the membership base of organised labour worldwide. Informal workers are not able to draw on market-based power as they lack formal skills, nor are they in large enterprises where they can draw on workplace bargaining power. Labour is living in an age of insecurity (Webster, et al. 2008). In this context, it may seem utopian to think in terms of decent work.

Expected Contribution to the Decent Work Agenda:

Develop a strategy for progressively realizing the goal of decent work in developing countries that reconciles the goal of decent work with sustainable development.

Related Publications

  • Webster, E; Bhowmik , S (2013).Work , Livelihoods and insecurity in the South: a  conceptual introduction. Khayaat Fakier and Ellen Emke (editors) Socio-Economic Insecurity in Emerging Economies: Building New Spaces". London: Routledge /Earthscan.

Project Coordinators:

Prof. Dr. Edward Webster

<link mail ein fenster zum versenden einer>webster(at)

Prof Dr. Sharit Bhowmik

<link mail>sharitb(at)

Student Coordinators:

  • Mona Meurer
  • Claudia Levy

Universities and Research Institutes involved:

  • Tata Institute of Social Science (TISS), India: Scool of Management and Labour Studies
  • University of the Witwatersrand (WITS), South Africa: Society, Work and Development Institute (SWOP)
  • University of Campinas (UniCamp), Brazil: Estudos Sindicais e de Economia do Trabalho (CESIT)
  • University of Sao Paolo (USP), Brazil
  • Unisversity of Yucatan, Mexico: Departamento de Manejo y Conservación de Recursos Naturales Tropicales (ProTropico)

Scholars involved:

  • Sharit Bhowmik (TISS)
  • Mouleshri Vyas (TISS)
  • Edward Webster (WITS)
  • Khayaat Fakier (WITS)
  • Jacklyn Cock (WITS)
  • Carlos Salas (CESIT)
  • Amilton Moretto (CESIT)
  • Cibele Rizek (USP)
  • Ruy Braga (USP)
  • Juan J. Jiménez-Osornio (ProTropico, Yucatan)

ICDD - PhD Students involved:

  • Abhishek Sawant (TISS)
  • Debdulal Saha (TISS)
  • Themba Masondo (WITS)
  • Katherine Joynt (WITS)
  • Claudia Levy (Kassel University / Witzenhausen, Germany)
  • Ellen Ehmke (Kassel University)