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Precarious work: a dangerous global trend

August 11, 2011

In this period of global economic instability, the lives of workers employed in global supply chains are becoming more and more insecure. Not only are workers confronted on a daily basis with the very real possibility that their factories will be closed as production is shifted to other countries and regions with lower labour costs, they are also facing changing employment relationships in their own countries that are making their working lives more precarious.

Precarious work clearly is a growing problem in Honduras and all of Central America, but it is also a global problem with serious consequences for workers in countries around the world.

Manufacturers everywhere are restructuring and flexibilizing employment relationships in order to satisfy the demands of buyers for just-in-time production, but also to reduce labour costs under the mistaken assumption that cheap labour is their only possible advantage in a highly competitive global economy.

Responding to this same logic, national governments are either "modernizing" current labour laws to accommodate the demand for flexible labour or consciously refraining from enforcing current labour laws and regulations.

In a very real sense, manufacturers, governments and international brands and retailers share responsibility for the consequences of the shift to precarious work, and all three must be held accountable for the negative impacts on workers.

The attached article is an analysis of the global problem of precarious work prepared by MSN in April 2011 as part of a broader project by the Independent Monitoring Team of Honduras (EMIH) on precarious work in the manufacturing and agricultural sectors in Honduras. The article was first published in Envío Honduras magazine, a publication of the Jesuit Reflection, Research and Communication Team (ERIC).