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.