GLC Modern Slavery Working Group member Joel Quirk announces new MOOC “Forced and Precarious Labor in the Global Economy: Slavery by Another Name?”

February 22, 2018
Now open for registration: Free Massive Open Online Course

Forced and Precarious Labor in the Global Economy: Slavery by Another Name?

A collaboration between the University of the Witwatersrand and Beyond Trafficking and Slavery/openDemocracy.

This course should appeal to anyone interested in both better understanding and effectively challenging global patterns of exploitation, vulnerability, and abuse. 

Led by some of the world’s leading authorities in the field, it provides an introduction to the role of forced and precarious labor in the global economy. Building upon content from the widely acclaimed online platform ‘Beyond Trafficking and Slavery,’ it explores how vulnerable workers – whose conditions are frequently compared to slavery – routinely endure precarious pay and conditions in order to generate goods and services further up the economic chain.

Drawing upon examples from across the world, the course specifically focuses on labor in three major categories of work: supply chain work, migrant work, and sex work. Students will also consider the limitations of popular approaches focusing upon the politics of rescue, the criminalisation of movement, and corporate social responsibility, and explore alternatives based upon models of worker rights, legal protection, collective organising, and decent work.

The course demonstrates that forced and precarious labour cannot be reduced to the grit in the gears of an otherwise legitimate and smoothly functioning economic system. They must instead be viewed as an intended outcome of the smooth and regular operations of the global economy. Taking effective action to address patterns of exploitation therefore requires identifying and challenging systems of exploitation, rather than targeting individual ‘bad apple’ employers or deviant criminals.

Key issues to be explored:

            • How forced and precarious labor feature in different sectors of the global economy, such as
supply chains and migrant labor.
            • How and why labor exploitation has been classified using different categories, such as slavery, trafficking, and forced labor, and what
effects these classifications can have for understanding key issues.
• How political activists have organized in order to combat specific abuses; and what the costs, benefits, and challenges of different strategies look like.
            • How governments, corporations, and civil society organizations have attempted to combat specific abuses, and what types effects
these efforts have had to date.
Course Instructors:
            • Elena Shih, Brown University.
            • Genevieve LeBaron, University of Sheffield.
            • Joel Quirk, University of the Witwatersrand
            • Neil Howard, University of Antwerp.
            • Prabha Kotiswaran, King’s College London
            • Samuel Okyere, University of Nottingham.

Further information:

This introductory course will begin on the 9th of March 2018 and run for nine weeks. No prior knowledge or expertise is required. Registration is free, with a paid certificate option. No more than 3- 4 hours per week is required.