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World of Work: Global Perspectives on Labour and Livelihoods

Dr Nicholas Bernards

Module Leader

Option - Final year only
Term 2
10 x 2 hour seminars

Available to students from outside GSD by application

This information relates to 2020-21

Principal Aims

This module introduces students to key concepts and debates about the role of work and labour in processes of global sustainable development. SDG 8 on ‘Full productive employment and Decent Work’ serves as a jumping off point to explore a number of issues and debates about the changing nature of work in the global economy and the possibilities for sustainable, dignified livelihoods. Students will engage these topics through class discussions focused on concrete case studies. Cases will be selected and presented by students themselves in most weeks.

Principal Learning Outcomes

By the end of this module, students will be able to:

  1. Understand key concepts in the study of work (i.e. employment and unemployment, free and unfree labour, informal work, global production networks).
  2. Critically assess major debates about the changing nature of work in the global economy.
  3. Demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of cross-disciplinary perspectives on the relationships between labour and global sustainable development.
  4. Undertake independent research and writing.


Week 1 - Introduction: Work, Labour, and Global Sustainable Development

Part 1: ‘Full and Productive Employment’

Week 2 - Labour Markets and (un)Employment

Week 3 - Skills and Productivity

Part 2: Thinking Globally About Work

Week 4 - Global Production Networks

Week 5 - Labour Migration

Part 3: Making Work ‘Decent’

Week 6 - Global Labour Governance

Week 7 - Unfree Labour and Modern Slavery

Week 8 - The Informal Economy and the Dilemmas of Formalization

Part 4: The Future of Work

Week 9 - Green Jobs and ‘Just Transitions’

Week 10 - Automation: Towards Jobless Growth?