“Do Human Rights Work for Informal Workers?”, in Diamond Ashiagbor, ed., Re-imagining labour law for development: Informal work in the global North and global South (London: Hart, 2019)
In this paper, by taking note of unique experiences of informal workers in their innumerable activities, I contend that treating labour rights as human rights is no sure recipe for improving conditions of such workers. Based on the epistemological foundation of institutional ethnography (IE), I argue that law and policy need to accept embodied experiences of informal workers at work as the informational basis for conceptualising such workers’ justified claims. Informal workers’ justified claims – because of their heterogeneous sui generis experiences – may not always neatly fit the legally safeguarded human rights standards. The claims that go beyond the human rights standards need to be legally institutionalised if informal workers aspirations are to be promoted.
“The Need to Become Fashionable”, in Brian Langille ed., The Capabilities Approach to Labour Law (London: OUP, 2019).
In this essay, I examine labour law scholars’ perspectives on the role of the capability approach in debates on labour law, particularly in the normative (re)conceptualization project of labour law. I argue, while the capability approach is capacious enough to account for minimum wages and other pluralistic concerns of labour law its significance goes much beyond merely justifying the existing account of labour law. The capability approach helps conceptualize a coherent idea on regulation of work in its societal complexity (i.e., catering to the empirical reality of the increasingly complex world of work) without assuming a now outdated institutional framework of industrial employment or other behavioural patterns of workers and their collectives. I contend that employing the capability approach in conceptualizing the goal of legal regulation of work, is a current need in view of the dramatically altered social realities from the one that existed at the dawn of industrial revolution, which labour law originally catered to.
“Challenging labour law’s ‘productivist’ bias through feminist lens – A Conversation”, in Ania Zbyszewska, Miriam Kullmann and Alicia Blackham eds., Theorizing Labour Law in a Changing World: New Perspectives and Approaches (London: Hart, 2019) (coauthored with Ania Zbyszewska)
In this essay, which takes the form of a conversation, Zbyszewska and I critically engage with feminist scholarship on recognizing, valuing and protecting various forms of work, including those that have been traditionally marginalized or entirely excluded from labour law’s scope. Examining the social reproduction literature in the context of labour law, we assess how far the feminist challenge to labour law orthodoxy has been able to attack the market-centric productivist orientation of labour law. Although we both agree that the productivism implicit in the discipline of labour law needs reconsideration, we disagree on how far the feminist project of social reproduction has been able to do so. While we do not claim that we have been comprehensive in out engagement with the feminist literature, we address certain formative tenets of the feminist agenda on labour law as a continuation of conversations that we have had in the past.
Embedding Work in Nature: Anthropocene and Law, Comparative Labor Law and Policy Journal (2018)
In this article, I propose a radical manner of contemplating legal regulation of working relationships when such work is socially valuable and is performed through socio-ecological relationship rather than private economic relationship. There is an increasing recognition in labor law scholarship that the traditional legal categories of employee/independent contractor do not sufficiently cover a variety of relationships through which economically productive work is performed. However, the majority of recent proposals on expanding the scope of labor law suggest an incremental approach to expanding legal categories. Barring a few exceptions almost all of these proposals are concerned with expanding the categories of private economic exchanges beyond labor law’s traditional dichotomy. While these are important advances made towards future conceptualization of labor law, they do not go far enough in recognizing human works that are valuable for human-nature harmony and planetary balance. Drawing on the lessons of inherent linkage between human activity and non-human nature, emerging from the scientific idea of the Anthropocene, the article notes that human work should not only be legally conceptualized in its private market-relevance, but it should also be recognized in its public/species significance. In the backdrop of respective justifications of private and public approaches to the preservation of nature, the article criticizes solely market exchange-based idea of private labor law and notes its limitations from a human activity-non-human nature relationship. Consequently, this article calls for legal imagination of work in its socio-ecological significance.
“Exploring an Experience-centric Entitlement Approach for Non-Standard Workers”, in Isabelle Daugareilh and Maryse Badel eds., La Sécurité Sociale: 70 ans d’age, une idée neuve (Paris: Dalloz, 2018)
In this essay, reflecting on empirical evidence from India, I argue that law and policy need to accept embodied experiences of informal workers at work as the informational basis for conceptualising such workers’ justified claims. Informal workers’ justified claims – because of their heterogeneous sui generis experiences – may not always neatly fit the legally safeguarded human rights standards. The claims that go beyond the human rights standards need to be legally institutionalised if informal workers’ aspirations are to be promoted. Taking cognizance of non-human rights claims does not mean that the human rights discourse is irrelevant for informal workers. Under certain circumstances human rights standards are useful for informal workers. However, workers’ human rights standards, which were developed in the backdrop of the industrial mass production, are generally not appropriately suited to take account of the diverse and unique needs and concerns of informal workers. Accordingly, I propose an experience-centred human rights-plus approach to promoting aspirations of informal workers.
“Transition from Informality to Formality & Rights of Domestic Workers in India”, in Upasana Mahanta and Indranath Gupta eds., Recognition of the Rights of Domestic Workers in India: Challenges and the Way Forward (New Delhi: Springer, 2018)
In this essay, by emphasizing situated experiences of domestic workers in India, I would argue that the ILO initiative of formalizing informal activities is a misdirected policy initiative that fails to grasp the real problem in the informal domain, which is the gap between workers’ situated aspirations and the abstract nature of legal rights. Rather than addressing this distance, the ILO Recommendation No. 204 and Convention No. 189 end up reinforcing this gap when these instruments limit their scope only to paid domestic workers and exclude broader social dialogue outside the tripartite structure. By engaging epistemological underpinnings of Institutional Ethnography, I will argue that in adhering to the industrial employment framework of labour rights, the ILO is not sensitive enough to the experiences of domestic workers.