Human Security and Workers in Thailand’s Post-Factory Age

Tomorrow and Friday I will be at a conference and presenting this paper:

Walsh, John, “Human Security and Workers in Thailand’s Post-Factory Age,” paper to be presented at the Critical Connections Conference (August 18th-19th, 2011, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok).

This is the abstract:

Many of the conventions and regulations introduced by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and similar agencies aimed at protecting workers in countries around the world are intended to protect workers in economies making the transition into the factory age. As predominantly rural populations become involved in large-scale manufacturing, that is, there is the need to protect them in the workplace in terms of health and safety measures, working hours and workplace rights in situations they had not previously experienced. Additionally, important rights such as collective bargaining and freedom of association had not been of such relevance in the agricultural setting. Now that Thailand has reached middle income stage, its future economic growth will depend on a successful transition from the low labour cost factory manufacturing paradigm to higher value-added industrial and service activities and, eventually, the widespread use of the knowledge-based economy. Such changes reconfigure the relationship between many workers and their employers and between the triumvirate of government, employers and employees. The reconfiguration will have elements based on power, time and space and, consequently, require new instruments and regulations to try to ensure that exploitation events are minimized, that income inequalities are not increased and that social mobility, such as it is, is not further constrained by structural issues emerging in the labour market. This paper examines the need for new measures to protect workers in the post-factory age based on the specific conditions existing in Thailand and on the international context of the industrially advanced world. Recommendations and practical lessons are drawn from the analysis.

I’m not sure whether there will be any publications coming from the conference but the full papers are available online.

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