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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

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.

Employability Skills

Through this module, you will develop a number of different skills that are sought by employers which will support your professional development. We have highlighted this to enable you to identify and reflect on the skills you have acquired and apply them throughout your professional journey including during the recruitment processes whether this on an CV/application form or at an interview.

  • Research - the main piece of assessment is a research assignment requiring students to design and conduct their own research project, students are supported in developing this project through the submission of a preliminary 'proposal' as an assessment
  • Written communication - main assessment is a piece of written work, students are offered support in developing their writing skills to target a specific audience
  • Group work - students will work in groups in seminars throughout term, and one of the assessments is a group presentation
  • Oral communication - students develop presentation skills through an assessed presentation.


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?



Preparation and Engagement (10%)

Case Study Presentation (Group) (20%)

Research Paper Proposal (20%)

Research Paper (50%)

  Please note: Module availability and staffing may change year on year depending on availability and other operational factors. The School for Cross-faculty Studies makes no guarantee that any modules will be offered in a particular year, or that they will necessarily be taught by the staff listed on this page.