Beyond Wage Labour: An Inclusive Approach to Work and Its Implications for the Emergence of New Workers’ Alliances in Urban Southeast Asia
Time & LocationSession 11
Fri 13:30–15:00 Room 1.401
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- Everyday Work in the Urban Kampung: Weighting Livelihood Options and Visions of a “Good Life” in a South Jakarta Neighbourhood Mechthild von Vacano Freie Universität Berlin
Academic studies on work in the Global South tend to focus on labour conditions and economic ‘development’ rather than the social qualities and subjective experiences of work. But work belongs as much to the spheres of everyday life as it does to the macro-structural context. It is an economic practice which – for most people – serves to secure a livelihood. However, even under destitute conditions, work still constitutes a socio-cultural activity which cannot be reduced to mere necessity. As numerous or limited the actual livelihood opportunities for anyone may be people still actively shape their lives by negotiating their options, needs, and aspirations embedded in specific social contexts. These negotiations expand beyond questions of ‘good’ or ‘decent work’ into the wider realm of visions for a ‘good life’.
Examining the emic evaluations of different livelihood options, this paper seeks to analyse the multiplex and often contradictory values which shape the economic everyday life in a lower to lower-middle class neighbourhood in South Jakarta: How valuable is formal security in an environment of economic instability? How desirable is the promise of a stable income as opposed to the contingent opportunities of doing business? What kind of economic behaviour is expected to be rewarded – materially or immaterially in the present and the future?
- Pursuing Protection and Welfare Through Drivers’ Association: The Case of Go-Jek Indonesia Ayunita Nur Rohanawati Universitas Islam Indonesia
Rizky Septiana Widyaningtyas Universitas Gadjah Mada, Indonesia
Go-Jek, an Indonesian transportation startup company, has been growing rapidly. Currently, more than a million drivers are associated with the company across the country based on what it is called as “a cooperation agreement”, not “an employment agreement”. Although a number of researches has shown that the use of online application provided by Go-Jek has managed to increase drivers’ income, the pattern of cooperation which is based on profit sharing (without costs sharing and adequate protection) seems to put the drivers in a vulnerable position. In addition, Go-Jek often changes unilaterally the provisions of tariffs and incentives which is detrimental to drivers, due to the weak bargaining position of the drivers. In this unequal working relationship, the state is expected to be present in providing legal protection for the drivers against the company’s policies. As a response, the Government of Indonesia has issued several regulations governing online transportation from 2016 to 2019. In fact, those regulations were considered to be contradictory to drivers’ expectations and after massive protests mobilised by drivers’ associations they were finally revoked. The associations were initially emerged as an informal community for circulating and exchanging information, sharing knowledge and experiences, as well as providing assistance in the case of emergency. Besides those internal roles within the members, drivers’ associations also play an essential role in strengthening the position of drivers in face of external actors, be them the company, the government, or conventional taxi drivers as the competitor. This paper employs a socio-legal approach to examine: first, the extent to which driver associations may influence the government policies regarding online transportation that is in favor the drivers’ interests; second, the prospect of legal architecture for the association to be effective in pursuing protection for and improvement the wealth of the online drivers in Indonesia.
- Urban Confederation Progressive Responses to the Informal Working People Sector in Urban Areas in Indonesia Mark Philip Stadler University of Copenhagen
The various forms of informal work are not fully explored in theory yet, especially with respect to the Southeast Asian city. The Confederation of Indonesian Peoples’ Movements (Konfederasi Pergerakan Rakyat Indonesia; KPRI) is trying to include all forms of work and labor into its agenda by giving social movements, civil society organizations, federations, unions and loosely organized groups as well as individuals access to membership. Among others are the urban poor, fishermen, migrant workers, laborers, native cultural (minority) groups. With theoretical approaches to urbanization as “urban growth machine” and the people working in the informal sector as “working people” (in contrast to the classic Marxian worker/laborer), the avant-garde leadership of KPRI seeks to (re-)unite people from all kinds of backgrounds who work in order to make a living, but whose work is not formalized with work contracts (f.x. ice/street food vendors, becak drivers) or whose work is not usually regarded as work (such as the time mothers spend nursing). The confederation is aimed at being a vehicle to join forces of interest groups and give them a possible role in politics. At one point, KPRI aims to have a representation in all Indonesian provinces in order to fulfill one of the various conditions to register as official political party. This presentation will give detailed insight into the theoretical concepts of the “working people” and “urban growth machine”. At the same time, KPRI will be analyzed as a social movement in the making and contextualized in the wider area of civil society in Indonesia.
- “We Don’t Like the Word Worker”: Negotiating Labor Rights at Sub-Regional Meetings in South and Southeast Asia Marie Larsson Stockholm University
This paper explores the relationship between transnational and localized activism among home-based workers who have joined in the sub-regional network of HomeNet Southeast Asia. The members of the network are mainly women who work from their houses (or nearby), either as dependent piece-rate employees working for an employer and independent own-account laborers (the self-employed). I am especially interested in the emergence of a common identity despite the diversity among the workers in the form of different gender ideologies and protest traditions. Based on fieldwork at international meetings in South and Southeast Asia, I discuss the construction of a sense of togetherness by referring to peoples’ participation in common “political practices” (Eschle & Maiguashca 2010) such as advocacy, knowledge production and service provisions. There are also, as mentioned, tensions and divergencies between the members, and therefore negotiations and translations of the meaning of home-based work formed a large part of the activities within the network. I also suggest that there have been changes over time that can be seen in that the international campaigns for the rights of the piece-rate workers of the 1980s and 1990s have been replaced by a growing focus on service provisions and social enterprises, which I argue are closely connected to hegemonic neoliberal discourses on entrepreneurship.
If economies of the global North are assessed to be entering a post-wage era, where are all those other economies going which have never fully been dominated by formal, waged labour? How can we grasp the structural changes of work and work relationships in geographic contexts which are largely characterized by economic activities dubbed ‘informal’? Based on an inclusive approach to work which encompasses all kinds of provisioning and caring, this panel draws attention to the multifarious forms of work in urban(izing) Southeast Asia. It seeks to examine the on-the-ground negotiations of different forms of work – from formal employment to microbusiness; from entrepreneurship to hustling; from service jobs to (unpaid) care work – and invites empirically founded assessments of current labour trends in the urban centres of the region.
On a second level, the panel raises the question of labour mobilization: If classical modes of union organization depend on formal employment relationships, how can workers collectively represent their interests beyond these specific conditions? What empirical examples of ‘informal’ workers’ or cross-sector alliances does Southeast Asia have to offer? And what are the organizational forms to foster these alliances (NGOs, CSOs, unions, confederations, social movements, etc.)? Inspired by the Indonesian “rakyat pekerja” (working people) approach, which seeks to unite the struggles of (female) domestic workers, migrant workers, fishermen, farmers, and workers in the classic sense, the panel will discuss the political challenges and potentials of grassroots mobilization based on an inclusive understanding of work.
We are interested in conceptual and empirical contributions from scholars engaged in the study of (plural forms of) work in urban Southeast Asia and welcome papers on the political potential of non- traditional / cross-sector workers’ alliances.