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Migration and Work

This research theme encompasses two related phenomena: south-south migration and its drivers, and work and development in the Global South.

Our era has been called 'the age of migration'. The claim is misleading - it renders moving a rupture, a break from the norm. Moreover, it constitutes societies, particular those in the global south, as static (culturally and geographically) before late modernity. Scholars have challenged the historicity of that claim, and have shown that in South Asia, before 1800, perhaps half the population was itinerant for a large part of their lives, as was the case in East and South East Asia. Africa too has seen significant internal migrations, whether on account of trade, slavery or warfare, and Latin American society is described as 'Latin' because of its historic transformation by migration.

As for migration in late-modern times, in the age of late-twentieth-century globalisation, its focus has been squarely on migration to the west, and our understanding of it is not only deeply Anglocentric, but also  policy-driven, and often based on shallow, snap-shot research in places of arrival. We know and understand far less about south-south migration and its drivers. Yet Cambridge is home to a number of scholars, at all stages of their careers, who work in this area, and the Consortium will bring them into conversation, to apply for grants and build new concepts that will take the field forward.

 Within this framework, we plan to focus on a few core themes:

  • Refugees and 'stayers-on' in southern contexts
  • Rural-urban migration and peri-urban settlements
  • Trafficking and intermediation
  • The gendered characteristics of south-south migration, and its consequences
  • Nation states' approaches to migrants and refugees
  • Humanitarianisms, their local and global histories 

 

Work and development

Despite its neglect in mainstream social sciences, work has always played a central role in shaping human welfare, identity, capability, and self-esteem. The issue of work is even more central in developing countries. First, the absence of the welfare state in the global south means that having a job is the only way in which people can secure the necessities of life, apart from some help from the extended family. Moreover, the rapid (although generally slowing) growth in population in  developing countries in the last couple of generations has resulted in a bulge in the youth population (aged 15-24), swelling the ranks of new entrants into the labour market. At the same time, the continuous rise in education level of those youths has meant that many countries are struggling to create jobs of necessary quantity and quality for this demographic. Job creation is increasingly becoming an urgent political challenge. At the national level, the discontent of educated but unemployed youth is creating a febrile (if not necessarily negative) political atmosphere in many developing countries – the so-called Arab Spring being the best example. At the international level, a lack of jobs in developing countries is increasing the flow of migrants into the rich countries, creating ethnic tensions and opening up opportunities for the politics of hatred.

The key themes we will explore include:

  • The meaning of work in human wellbeing
  • Labour market regulations and work-place democracy
  • The impacts of the welfare state on human welfare, in and out of work
  • Education, training, and re-training policies
  • Industrial policy as a means to improve the quality of work
  • The impact of global value chains (GVCs)
  • The impact of new technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI)

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Tri-Continental Tea Seminar: The Politics of Science and Technology in the Global South

Nov 27, 2017

The Consortium for the Global South invites you to participate in the first of its Tricontinental Tea Seminars. This informal series is intended to connect researchers working in different departments and disciplines within the University departments, to share knowledge, and to explore the potential for future collaborative projects.