Published in Dawn, May 2nd, 2021
Standard employment, the long-term work arrangement with one employer, pension and benefits, is vanishing. The pandemic has made the process faster. Non-standard, exploitative forms of employment have existed since ages and remain the dominant arrangement in capitalist societies. The only difference is that another category called ‘gig’ has been added to the existing irregular, contractual, temporary or on-call arrangements. The unifying factor for non-standard arrangements is that none provides protection to workers. Gig workers constitute a significant number of those impacted by Covid-19’s economic fallout in the Western world and Asia.
‘Gig work’ refers to non-standard employment on precarious contracts with digital on-demand platforms. The nature of work varies on the basis of different types of IT-based work platforms. Crowd-work platforms outsource online clerical tasks (eg data entry, business consulting) to a dispersed crowd of workers. Location-based platforms (eg Careem, FoodPanda, AirLyft) allocate offline manual work, such as delivery or transport services, to individuals in a specific geographical area. Online tasks which require a certain level of education appear to be less exploitative than offline manual work.
Published in Dawn on June 11, 2019.
The textile industry the world over poses many hazards to workers, such as musculoskeletal disorders and exposure to chemicals, dust, fibres, noise, vibration, and dangerous machinery. In addition to mechanical and chemical hazards, fires pose the greatest risk, particularly in developing economies with substandard building structures. It is the state’s responsibility to ensure workplace safety through national safety regulations, along with inspection and compliance mechanisms. South Asian states, however, tend to abdicate this crucial responsibility — which may result in workers losing their lives and limbs.
Published in Dawn on May 26, 2019.
The ever-expanding global textile industry, worth $2.4 trillion according to an estimate, spins countless tales of woes of the workers it employs in millions. We are familiar with stories of abuse suffered by the lower-tier, or blue-collar workers, in many countries, including Pakistan. White-collar or middle-management workers have their own tales to tell, though on the surface their world of work is ‘white’, and not ‘blue’. But corporate greed knows no bounds or colour.
Published in Dawn on September 30th 2018
Every brand has a story to tell, so said some marketing experts. What the experts failed to share is that most brands also have stories to hide. These are the stories of unjust, unlawful treatment of those who create products which are wrapped up in illusions of comfort, grandiosity and pride of possession called ‘brand’ and sold to beguiled consumers.
The stories about brands violating labour and environmental rights in poor developing countries remain on the margins and seldom make it to the mainstream media. Hence I was surprised to read a story recently in The New York Times that a home-based seamstress in Italy — the third largest economy in the EU — is paid €1 for each metre of fabric she stitches. At most she earns €24 for an entire coat which is sold by brands like Louis Vuitton and Fendi for €2,000!