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Cover Global Political Economy

12. Labour and work  

Matthew Alford

This chapter illustrates the complex and contested relationship between global production and labour. The mode of global production has changed dramatically since the 1970s. Since the 1990s, corporations have outsourced the production of goods to suppliers around the world. At the core of this contemporary form of global production is the ability of lead firms to profit through advanced sourcing strategies, economies of scale, and branding. This gives corporations significant bargaining power over their fragmented and geographically dispersed supplier base. In the contemporary global economy, conditions of poverty and marginalization can be attributed not only to exclusion from employment, but also to the adverse incorporation of precarious workers into global production. The chapter then considers the role of national governments in the governance of labour in global production, before looking at the impact of e-commerce and automation on the future of work.