Theme 1: Labour in the Global South

Despite the organic connection between less developed/developing countries (South) and developed countries (North) driven by colonialism and imperialism, the uneven development of capitalism between the two regions has led to dynamics in the South that forces us to rethink our common understanding of 'labour'. The condition and experience of southern workers is defined not only by the subordination of their nation states to developed countries also to the scale of within country social inequality. Diverse forms of paid and unpaid work, both gendered and racialized hierarchies sit aside a large informal sector, a growing underpaid female workforce, compromised health and wellbeing at work, a lack of state protection and often limited opportunities for collective action.

Persistent colonial legacies, visible in elitist notions of development and knowledge production, have reproduced rather than challenged deleterious forms of labour exploitation and the pauperisation of communities linked to ongoing extraction of natural resources and environmental degradation. The emerging South-South movement of labour and subsequent regional inequalities poses new questions of the working conditions of migrants, their transnational patterns of social reproduction and the limits of current development projects in the Global South.

The resulting working lives and lived experiences of workers in the Global South demands a redirection of intellectual focus and the broadening of empirical and theoretical boundaries of how work and labour is researched. It requires us to trace and question inherent unequal power relations in dominant economic models and make visible alternative, socially committed forms of knowledge and economic production. In this theme, we bring together labour scholars, researchers and practitioners who share similar perspectives to explore the challenges faced, and responses taken, by labour in the Global South. We seek to resist and numb the dominance of the Global North in the literature on labour by bringing to the forefront work that speaks about and with labour at the grassroots level allowing for vibrant, cultural and societal dimensions to emerge in our discourse and practices in the Global South.

Theme Projects

Securitisation of Nature, Displacement and Unfree labour in Brazil's Amazon

This project (2021-2024) examines the experiences of unfree labour within international migrants and internally displaced communities in Brazil`s Amazon. Drawing upon the life stories of displaced workers and ethnographic documentation of their living conditions, this study intends to provide new theoretical frameworks and policy-based recommendations to address the issues of forced displacement and slave labour in Brazil. This three-year study aims to investigate:

(1)  how the securitization of state borders and policing technologies have shaped displacement and forms of labour unfreedom in Brazil.

(2) the extent to which inequitable access to social rights and adequate living conditions following displacement are linked to the experiences of slave labour;

(3) how the shared experiences of displaced communities and the enhanced visibility of their working conditions can inform local, national and international policies and practices to combat slave labour.

Project Coordinator

Leverhulme Early Career fellowship (ECF)


So who is building Sustainable development? migrant labour & exploitation in the Global South

Go to project site

The participatory research (2018-2021) aims to investigate and transform the increasingly widespread link between the concentration of migrants in need of humanitarian protection along migration corridors in the Brazilian Amazonia region; the requirement of large and flexible workforces for large infrastructure projects including construction and agribusiness; exploitative labour conditions in these industries that that are part of ‘sustainable development’ agendas. The project engages workers from Brazil, Haiti, Colombia, Venezuela, Senegal and various other African states in order to:

  1. document the influence of formal and informal agents on the migrant workers' journey and employment

  2. identify deficits in dignified work and social protection

  3. Collectively propose transformative solutions via a range of media;

  4. facilitate direct social dialogue between migrant workers, project partners and government, industrial, labour and non-profit agencies,at state, regional and national level

Project Team
  • Brian Garvey (Principal Investigator): University of Strathclyde

  • Francis Virginio (Research Associate): University of Strathclyde

  • José Alves (Co-investigator): Federal University of Acre, Brazil

  • Paul Stewart (Co-investigator): Grenoble School of Management


ESRC Global Challenges


Health and wellbeing of Bangladeshi workers in Mauritius

Mauritius is an attractive work destination for Bangladeshi workers due to its industrial and cultural similarities. They are, however, subjected to lower wages, long working hours and poor housing. They face major integration problems including little social interaction and xenophobic sentiments. They are deprived of proper legal support, health care and occupational safety. These are often masked as general exploitation without specific consideration of impact on migrants' health and well-being. The project aims to assess the health and well-being of Bangladeshi workers in Mauritius and to bring together a multidisciplinary and multifunctional set of stakeholders from private, public and third sectors who can contribute to research and create policy-related impact for Bangladeshi workers (and other migrant workers) in Mauritius.

Project Team
  • Pratima Sambajee (Principal Investigator)

  • Dora Scholarios


GCRF pump priming, University of Strathclyde

  • Dr Imteaz Mohamadhosen (University of Mauritius)

  • Jane Ragoo ( Confederation des travailleurs du secteur prive et publique (CTSP)

  • Reaz Chuttoo (Confederation des travailleurs du secteur prive et publique (CTSP)

  • National Productivity and Competitiveness Council Mauritius


  • Pratima Sambajee, University of Strathclyde
  • Francis Portes Virginio, University of Strathclyde
  • Jane Ragoo, Confederation of Private and Public Sector Workers in Mauritius (CTSP)
  • Fedo Bacourt, Social Union of Haitian Immigrants (USIH), Brazil