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Homeworkers are a globally significant part of the informal workforce, commonly regarded as invisible because their work is not recognized (Burchielli et al. , 2008; Prugl, 1999). In this qualitative study, we examine homeworker invisibility in the case of Argentinian garment homework using the concepts of work invisibilization and work denial. The work invisibilization concept (Krinsky and Simonet, 2012), referring to devalorized work resulting from the neoliberal agenda, is used to understand recent global trends away from standard work arrangements/protections. Arising from the social relations of domination, invisibilized work is precarious, with irregular/ non-existent employment contracts and relationships. Invisibilization thus provides a valuable lens for analysing homework, which shares key characteristics with emerging forms of invisibilized employment. Homework however, has not transformed but has always been informal, characterized by inferior standards. To account for this, we articulate a concept of denial of work. Cohen's (2001) concept of denial describes broad dimensions, including different forms, strategies and levels of denial. Adapting these, we construct a framework to analyze the denial of Argentinian garment homework, enabling a detailed examination of the specific social actors and processes involved in casting homework as non-work. In considering the denial of homework in relation to invisibilization, we argue that these are related but distinct concepts. Used together, they help explain the low-power condition of two types of garment homeworkers in Argentina while also accounting for their differences: the mostly male, migrant workers employed in clandestine workshops (such as the Bolivians interviewed in our study), and the traditional, mostly female, Argentinian garment homeworkers. Our findings suggest that Bolivian immigrant homeworkers are partially visibilized due to NGO advocacy. However, as there are no improvements to their working conditions, they remained largely invisibilized through the effects of capitalism. By contrast, traditional women homeworkers have no representation and internalize their condition: their invisibilization is explained by the cumulative effects of capitalism and patriarchy.
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Burchielli R & Delaney A (2016) The invisibilization and denial of work in Argentian garment
homework. Relations Industrielles Industrial Relations 71 (3) 468-493
The invisibilization and denial of work in Argentinian garment homework
In this paper we examine the invisibilization of Argentinian garment homework
using insights from the invisibilization literature (Krinsky and Simonet,
2012) and applying a framework of denial (Cohen, 2001) to theorize the
low-power position of two categories of garment homeworkers: individual
local women who work from their homes and mostly male Bolivian migrants
working in clandestine workshops. We argue that the processes of invisibilization
and denial of their work pose critical obstacles to homeworker collective
action, to access protection and rights. There is limited potential for
both groups of homeworkers to draw on associational power to improve
their working conditions, but we find that the invisibilization of women
homeworkers is more profound. We attribute this to the social and power
relations of patriarchy and capitalism and their discourses which perpetuate
Key words: Home-based work; Argentina; garment industry; invisible work; women’s
Garment homework has an historical association with ‘sweated labour’ and women’s
work: it is an ‘old’ form of work that has survived as a contemporary work
arrangement because it benefits capital (Boris and Daniels, 1989). For the most part,
homework is located in labour intensive supply chains such as garments, where
women predominate in the production of goods. In general, homeworkers experience
marginalization linked to gender, labour rights and social protection. Homeworkers
work from their own or other people’s homes, for an employer or intermediary,
usually on a piece-work basis. Homeworkers are a globally significant part of the
informal workforce, commonly regarded as invisible because they are not recognized
as workers (Burchielli et al., 2008; Prugl, 1999) and homework is not regarded as
work. In this paper we examine this non-work/non-worker attribution to
homework/ers by analyzing the case of Argentinian garment homework using two
distinct but closely related concepts: work invisibilization and work denial.
The work invisibilization literature refers to precarious and devalorized work, where
workers have little or no power or collective identity (Krinsky and Simonet, 2012).
The concept of invisibilization is useful to understand recent trends away from
standard work arrangements and protections. Invisibilization has parallels with the
precariousness literature (Burchielli et al., 2014; Kalleberg, 2009) that attributes work
and employment deviations to changed structural and institutional arrangements,
such as reduced labour regulation and union decline. Invisibilization primarily
focuses on changed social and power relations achieved via political, economic,
psychological, and regulatory processes (Krinsky and Simonet, 2012; Renault, 2012;
Ainsworth, 2001; Thornton, 1991).
Burchielli R & Delaney A (2016) The invisibilization and denial of work in Argentian garment
homework. Relations Industrielles Industrial Relations 71 (3) 468-493
Work invisibilization, draws from specific instances of emerging job categories and
employment modes, exemplifying diminished and devalorized work, to explain the
growth of forms of work that push many workers into a blurred middle ground
towards a type of work which is paid but not correctly; is unpaid; is neither
professional nor manual, is not properly protected and ultimately affects whether the
workers are deemed as workers (Krinsky, 2012). The invisibilization concept
describes macro political and economic trends and discourses that have justified or
otherwise brought about changes in standard employment resulting in diminished
work conditions, but has not been applied to homework. In this paper, we argue that
invisibilization is a valuable lens through which to analyse homework for two
reasons. First, homework has similar key characteristics as the forms of invisibilized
employment described in the invisibilization literature: both feature irregular and
insecure work, irregular/non-existent employment contracts, and irregular/non-
existent employment relationships, i.e. workers are not counted as employees.
Second, in line with the invisibilization literature, we argue that these conditions are
brought about by the social relations of domination.
Despite the similarities between homework and emerging types of devalorized
employment, homework has an important difference. Unlike any other type of formal
employment, homework has not transformed: it has continuously been informal work
characterized by inferior standards compared to formal employment. Our desire to
account for this important feature of homework led us to look beyond the
invisibilization concept, to established areas of homework analysis, such as gender
research. Moreover, to account for the consistently informal nature of homework, we
introduce and articulate a concept of denial of work. This notion is suggested by the
work invisibilization literature, where the concept of work invisibilization leans heavily
on the term denial of work’ (Krinski and Simonet, 2012) but which is not tackled
conceptually. Critically, therefore, we adapt a specific concept of denial (Cohen,
2001) that enables the bridging of homework with other types of invisibilized work.
We employ the denial concept applied in sociology to analyze instances of state
denial of human rights (Cohen, 2001). This describes broad dimensions of denial,
such as different forms and levels of denial, and distinguishes key strategies to
achieve denial, which are transferrable to a concept of the denial of work. Using
these general dimensions, we construct a framework adapted from Cohen (2001),
and operationalize it in our analysis of the denial of work in relation to Argentinian
garment homework. We use this framework to catalogue the forms, strategies and
levels of the denial of Argentinian homework, enabling a detailed examination of the
specific means, social actors and processes involved in denying homework, making
it appear as non-work. We also consider the denial of homework in relation to
invisibilization, and argue that these are related but distinct concepts that together
help to explain the low power position of two types of garment homeworkers in
We make some important contributions in this paper. Employing both the
invisibilization and denial concepts to the analysis of homework shines somewhat
different lights on and highlights different features of this form of work. Our
application of invisibilization and denial is original and useful to theorizing key
specificities of homework. Moreover, the use of the two concepts enables our
Burchielli R & Delaney A (2016) The invisibilization and denial of work in Argentian garment
homework. Relations Industrielles Industrial Relations 71 (3) 468-493
reflection on the nuances of each and subsequently aids in extending the
invisibilization literature.
The paper begins with a discussion of invisibilization, its processes and a framework
of denial, and then outlines features of the Argentinian garment industry, followed by
the method. The remaining sections analyze and compare two categories of
homework using the processes of invisibilization and the forms, strategies and levels
of denial and draw together our analysis around the denial and invisibilization of
garment homework in Argentina.
Invisibilization of work
The concept of work invisibilization arises from the examination of current global
employment trends. Invisibilization (Krinsky and Simonet, 2012) refers to work
categories, employment arrangements and labour standards that represent
diminished employment rights, agency and social protections compared to standard
work. Focusing on changed institutional arrangements producing shifts in power,
invisibilization offers a sociological perspective on the phenomenon of reduced
employment standards and relationships, resulting in the devalorization of work.
Invisibilization is shaped by social and economic forces such as neoliberalism and
globalization (Krinsky and Simonet, 2012) that have given ascendancy to
capitalism’s market-driven urges for increased privatization, greater flexibility,
reduced regulation and a decline in worker protection (Harvey, 2006).
The concept of invisibilization goes beyond categorizing and describing specific
conditions of work, to take into account the power relations that produce it.
Invisibilization refers to the processes by which certain jobs/occupations, such as
caring and service work, and certain employment modes such as casual,
temporary or voluntary - are diminished, renamed and recast such that work (which
is paid and regulated) is denied and made to look like non-work (which may be
unpaid, poorly paid, and less regulated) (Krinsky and Simonet, 2012). There is a
sense in the invisibilization literature that the denial of work is accomplished via
invisibilization. Beyond this, however, the denial of work has only an assumed
meaning in the invisibilization literature: no definition is offered, nor any explicit
accounting for the use of both terms, nor any attempts to delineate the nuances of
the denial/invisibilization.
The invisibilization literature examines work arrangements that include full-time
workers alongside labour-hire, casual, volunteers, workers recruited through welfare
schemes; all doing similar work with different conditions and rights (Krinsky, 2012).
Examples include volunteer firefighters in France, working for a small allowance
alongside full-time firefighters and New York park workers, consisting of fulltime
workers, workers on welfare schemes, and volunteers. The fulltime firefighters and
park workers are employed under standard work arrangements, protected by
standard labour laws and unions, while the other worker categories have varying
levels of remuneration, conditions, rights and representation. These trends blur paid
and unpaid work arrangements and worker identity, with the effect for many workers
of not being recognized or invisibilized as workers (Krinsky and Simonet, 2012).
Invisibilization also contemplates visibilization and partial visibilization : visibilization
refers to the complete valorization of work, including worker rights and recognition,
Burchielli R & Delaney A (2016) The invisibilization and denial of work in Argentian garment
homework. Relations Industrielles Industrial Relations 71 (3) 468-493
whereas partial visibilization falls somewhere in between invisibilization and
visibilization. The case of domestic work in Brazil provides an example of partial
visibilization (Georges and Vidal, 2012). This case argues that some work
visibilization has been achieved via regulation, worker representation and recognition
through government policy (Rodriguez, 2007). However, there continue to be a
range of inequalities in terms of pay, relationship to employer, working conditions,
rights and protections and has greater similarities with invisibilization (Georges and
Vidal, 2012).
The processes of work invisibilization
Work invisibilization is brought about via various, inter-related social processes
embedded within current socio-political, economic, organizational and regulatory
environments (Krinsky and Simonet, 2012). The invisibilization literature describes
processes relating to forms of non-recognition, such as legal constructions of the
worker that may exclude some workers or limit the value of their work. A further
process is the formation of discourses that ‘rename’ work as non-work, such as in
the designation of voluntary work, resulting in institutionalizing devalorized work
(Krinsky and Simonet, 2012). The invisibilization processes, including enabling
discourses, resonate in the broader literature on worker/work invisibility, from authors
adopting gender, class and race perspectives within employment and labour
relations (Fraser, 2013; Nakano Glen, 2014; Ainsworth, 2002; Thornton 1991).
For example, women workers’ invisibility is accomplished through organizational
discourses that do not recognize or mis-recognize and thus diminish women’s work
contribution and status (Ainsworth, 2002). A philosophy of work perspective
proposes that workers internalize institutional and social messages. When workers
accept a devalued perspective of their work and themselves, this affects their ability
to associate and collectivize (Renault, 2012). Simultaneously limited by lack of
agency and associational power traditionally gained through unions (Wright, 2000),
they are less likely to join together with colleagues to act on feelings of injustice
(Renault, 2012). The devaluing of certain forms of work perpetuates lack of
recognition (Fraser, 2013) via the effect of diminishing worker’s capacity to form
collective structures and support (Renault, 2012).
The links between non-recognition, renaming discourses and invisibilization are
illustrated in the case of domestic work discussed in the invisibilization literature.
Recent recognition via the International Labour Organisation (ILO) convention on
domestic work (ILO, 2010) has contributed to improvements in legal protection and
establishment of new domestic worker organisations in countries such as Brazil.
However, the fact that domestic work takes place within the private sphere,
constructed as the female domain,!has contributed to the failure to address the
inequalities entrenched by class, gender and race identities and perpetuated by the
master-servant relationship inherent in domestic work (Georges and Vidal, 2012).
Such socially constructed boundaries limit worker’s capacity to identify and be
recognized as workers. Rather than being acknowledged as workers, they are
renamed as the help, the babysitter, the nanny or the dog walker (Georges and
Vidal, 2012), all of which devalue the work, misrepresenting it as the innate work of
women and further diminish women’s capacity to seek support, to recognize their
own status as workers and to assert their legal rights (Rodriguez, 2007).
Burchielli R & Delaney A (2016) The invisibilization and denial of work in Argentian garment
homework. Relations Industrielles Industrial Relations 71 (3) 468-493
The discourses and processes of invisibilization are further illustrated in the most
fundamental forms of worker protection, enshrined within labour laws and contracts.
These legal instruments include key definitions, such as who is a worker, and reflect
dominant discourses and their constructions (Vosko, 2002). Laws construct the
notion of the workplace/non-workplace, as demonstrated through the public/ private
dichotomy (Fraser, 2013; Thornton, 1991). The concept of work, as described in
legislation, refers to ‘paid labour emanating from the contract of employment’
(Thornton, 1991: 453) and excludes the myriad forms of unpaid labour performed by
women in the home (Vosko, 2010; Fudge and Owens, 2006; Mohanty, 2006; Nakano
Glenn, 2014). Interrelated factors, including class, race and gender, link the notion
of invisibility to the private sphere; to unpaid work largely performed by women in the
home, and to inadequate legal representation and protections. Non-recognized, mis-
recognized and invisibilized work discriminates against women, since they are more
likely to be engaged in precarious and informal work arrangements. The non-
recognition of work in the private sphere ultimately constitutes a political tool used to
benefit the state and capital (Nakano Glenn, 2014; Thornton, 1991).
Regulation and labour laws may favor or confer power to some social actors over
others, for example, corporations and business entities. Regulatory environments
may be weaker in different national contexts and firms choose the most favorable
regulatory environment for business purposes at the expense of working conditions
and worker rights (Krinsky, 2012). Regulatory environments implicate key
actors/institutions as instruments of invisibilization, depending on whether these
institutions maintain or change inequitable constructions. The public/ private
dichotomy becomes a political mechanism that enables the state to reduce the
number of domains of its responsibility (Fraser, 2013; Thornton, 1991) and allows
capital to act without facing regulatory consequences, thus safeguarding the
dominant interests of both the state and business (Stone and Arthurs, 2013;
Thornton, 1991).
Invisibilization has parallels with the literature examining precariousness, which is
similarly attributed to neoliberalism and globalization and results in reduced
regulation and a decline in worker protection (Kalleberg, 2009). Neoliberal
globalization provides firms with opportunities to access new product and labour
markets and creates greater vulnerabilities for workers. Outsourcing and
subcontracting is a key feature of global supply chains (Barrientos, 2012). The
practices associated with outsourcing and subcontracting, mingled with narrow
constructions of work and workers, frequently result in marginalizing informal
The invisibilization literature clearly describes the broad socio-political and economic
trends and discourses that have justified or otherwise brought about changes in
standard employment resulting in diminished work conditions, but has not been
applied to homework (Krinsky and Simonet, 2012). We propose that homework is
like other invisibilized work in its association with sub-standard conditions. Yet, it is
unlike emerging forms of work in that it has not undergone a transformation of work
conditions. Due to its associations with the home and the predominance of women, it
is informal work; it was originally and has continuously been devalorized work,
described as invisible, and associated with sub-standard conditions (Boris and
Daniels, 1989). In order to apply the insights of invisibilization to the analysis of
Burchielli R & Delaney A (2016) The invisibilization and denial of work in Argentian garment
homework. Relations Industrielles Industrial Relations 71 (3) 468-493
homework, while still accounting for homework’s unique characteristics, we introduce
a concept of denial from sociology.
A framework of denial
A concept of denial is proposed by Cohen (2001), in the context of State denial of
violations of human rights. In this work, Cohen (2001) argues that denial is the key
process that enables or justifies violations, which would otherwise be deemed
criminal or morally reprehensible. Denial is defined as ‘repressing, disavowing, or
reinterpreting’ events (2001: 1), with the effect of changing their meaning. To
illustrate simply, the denial of a human rights violation proposes it is a non-violation.
Denial is discussed from various perspectives. First, the ‘forms of denial’ identify and
describe distinct types of denial: ‘literal, interpretive or implicatory’ denial (2001: 1-7).
Forms of denial refer to a spectrum of denial pronouncements: from outright denial
(literal) through to other nuances. Second, various strategies are used to accomplish
denial (2001: 51-68). The strategies refer to rationalizing techniques used in
discourse or behaviours that have a denying effect, including ‘normalizing, renaming
and justifying’ denial (2001: xi). Third, there are distinct levels of denial (2001: xiv; 9-
20) that refer to various social actors that participate in denial or broad cultural
institutions or processes that support it. These forms, strategies and levels, are
represented in Table 1, which we propose as a generic framework of denial.
Table 1: A framework of denial
Denial category
Literal: assertion that something did not happen or is untrue.
Interpretive: giving a different meaning from what seems
apparent to others
Implicatory: not taking responsibility; ‘justifications,
rationalizations, and evasions’ to deal with human rights
Normalizing: an event or occurrence is unremarkable
Justifying: ‘everyone does it’
Renaming: euphemizing, greenwashing
Source: Adapted from Cohen (2001) States of denial: Knowing about atrocities and
This generic framework, focusing on denial itself, may be transferred to a work and
employment context, to explore the denial of work. Following Cohen’s (2001)
definition, which focuses on the re-interpretative effect of denial, we define denial of
work as reinterpreting work as non-work. The denial of work concept is better suited
to accounting for the intrinsically informal dimension of homework described in the
literature: rather than devalued work resulting from transformed conditions,
homework has always been denied as work (Boris and Daniels, 1989).
Denial of work and work invisibilization are distinct concepts. Invisibilization suggests
a rendering of invisibility, while denial implies a negation. Invisibilization refers to
diminished work standards, while the denial of work removes the work attribution
Burchielli R & Delaney A (2016) The invisibilization and denial of work in Argentian garment
homework. Relations Industrielles Industrial Relations 71 (3) 468-493
altogether, obviating the need for standards. These are subtle but crucial
distinctions. Importantly however, the concepts are closely related: both rely on non-
recognition or misrecognition and other social processes, such as re-naming or
rationalizations; both rely on social actors (business organizations, the state) to
accomplish similar ends: devalorized, insecure work, which is poorly paid and
scarcely protected. In both the means and the ends, there is a critical similarity. We
contend that applying the framework of denial to the analysis of Argentinian garment
homework enables a detailed examination of the specific means, social actors and
processes that are implicated in the denial of homework as work. Moreover, the
denial framework can be overlaid on the invisibilization concept and processes to
establish denial and invisibilization as complements. We thus extend the original
work invisibilization literature, which uses the two terms without distinction, by
discussing and determining their links. In this paper, we use the framework adapted
from Cohen (2001), in conjunction with concepts from invisibilization to catalogue the
forms, strategies and levels of the denial and invisibilization of Argentinian
homework, and to analyze the multiple inequalities and power imbalances in this
form of work, and the implications for homeworkers.
Garment homework in Argentina - background
Garment homework is one of the largest categories of homework and is one of the
better documented. We chose Argentina as the case for this article as it offers some
unique characteristics. First, there are two distinct groups of garment homeworkers
in Argentina (Pascucci, 2011). Second, although women generally constitute the
majority of homeworkers around the world (Burchielli et al., 2008), one of the
Argentinian groups is dominated by men (Pascucci, 2011). Third, of these two
groups, the male-dominated group appears to have greater visibility than the female-
dominated group.
Recent economic hardship in Argentina has led to high unemployment, increased
informal work and strategies by employers to circumvent the standard employment
arrangements with little regard to being held to account (Vieta, 2014). The garment
industry typifies this trend: data from the Household Survey for 2012 (INDEC, 2012)
indicate that the garment sector has one of the highest rates of informal work. For
example, in 2008, informal employment in the garment sector had reached 78% (La
Nacion, 2008; Pagina, 2008, cited in Lieutier, 2009).
In Argentina, informal garment production began with immigration at the beginning of
the twentieth century (Lieutier, 2009). Garment homework was carried out by both
the individual seamstress and small workshops/sweatshops, subcontracted via an
intermediary. These employment relationships were characterized by ‘brutal
conditions imposed on workers’ (Lieutier, 2009: 44). Since the early 1900s, garment
homework continued to grow in Argentina (Olmedo and Murray 2002; Whitson
2007). The small body of existing literature describes two types of Argentinian
garment homework. The first is known as occurring in the ‘clandestine’ garment
sweatshops, that employ mostly male, Bolivian migrant workers, referred to as
homeworkers, who have received considerable attention from the media and NGO
activists (Gardetti and Torres, 2012; Lieutier, 2009; Bastia, 2007). In contrast, there
are scant empirical studies on the second group: Argentinian traditional garment
homeworkers, mostly female (Pascucci, 2011).
Burchielli R & Delaney A (2016) The invisibilization and denial of work in Argentian garment
homework. Relations Industrielles Industrial Relations 71 (3) 468-493
Homeworker protection is outlined in the Argentinian Homework Law (12.713),
proclaimed in 1941. The intention of this law was to protect homeworkers (both
home-based and workshop) from the ‘excessive exploitation to which they were
subjected in garment workshops or in their homes’ (Lieutier, 2009). Simultaneously,
it sought equivalent conditions for homeworkers as factory workers. Currently, there
are pressures contesting the homework law. Manufacturers want their workshop
employees to be considered as their suppliers rather than employees (Pascucci
2011). This effectively would exonerate them of any responsibility for conditions in
the workshops and would reduce piece-rates. While no proposed amendments have
been passed, there have been very few prosecutions based on this law in recent
years, and all attempts relate to Bolivian or other immigrant sweatshop workers
(Lieutier 2009; Pascucci 2011).
SOIVA is the registered clothing workers’ union in Argentina, but it neither represents
nor advocates for homeworkers, in sweatshops or homebased (Pascucci, 2011).
Due to the lack of collective representation for homeworkers, an alternative,
unregistered union has emerged, Union de Trabajadores Costureros (UTC-Alameda)
which is linked to the NGO ‘La Alameda’ (Pascucci, 2011). This union represents the
Bolivian migrant sweatshop workers, and does not do any kind of work with
individual Argentinian women garment homeworkers (La Alameda, 2015). The
specific focus of this NGO is to expose the worst forms of labour exploitation, such
as Argentinian business activities that are linked to human trafficking, prostitution,
child labour and forced labour (La Alameda, 2015; Pascucci, 2011).
Primary data were collected in September and October 2012 in Buenos Aires,
Argentina and augmented during 2013 - 2014 via personal communication or using
secondary sources. The principal aim of data collection was part of a broader project
to document garment homework around the world. Primary data consisted of 22
interviews, researcher field notes and personal communications. Secondary data
included organizational documents, industry and government reports, and various
media reports, totaling 29 distinct data sources. Initial contact was made with an
academic, the Ministry of Labour, the non-government organization (NGO) ‘La
Alameda’; and the garment union SOIVA. The garment union SOIVA did not respond
to our correspondence, which we speculate may be due to the fact that this union
does not currently cover homeworkers in the garment industry. Initial informants
provided introductions to other possible informants. For example, the initial academic
contact facilitated the meeting leading to the subsequent interview at the union peak
body: CTA. Subsequently, the union peak body informant facilitated the meetings
with individual women garment homeworkers.
Formal interviews were conducted with the NGO La Alameda; Ministry of Labour,
Employment and Social Security (Ministerio de Trabajo, Empleo y Seguridad Social,
MTEySS); Argentinian academics; a union peak body (Central de Trabajadores
Argentinos, CTA); factory workers and union delegates (Commercial Workers Union
and Cutters Union); a garment brand-owner; a government sponsored, model
garment and textile hub (INTI-CDI), and both Bolivian and Argentinian garment
homeworkers. Organizational documents and reports were obtained or accessed
following interviews, and field-notes were taken over the duration of the fieldwork.
Burchielli R & Delaney A (2016) The invisibilization and denial of work in Argentian garment
homework. Relations Industrielles Industrial Relations 71 (3) 468-493
Interviews were semi-structured, based on open, general questions (Miles and
Huberman, 1994) such as ‘What can you tell me about the garment industry and
homework in Argentina’; ‘What can you tell me about Argentinian laws governing
garment homework’; ‘Who is a homeworker?’ Other more specific questions followed
respondents’ answers, in order to probe more deeply into an issue (Miles and
Huberman, 1994), such as ‘What are the conditions of the garment sweatshops’,
‘Are there any women doing garment homework?’ and ‘What is your experience of
garment homework?’
Responses were subsequently analysed thematically and organized into broad
categories (Richards, 2009) responding to the aims of the research to understand
garment homework in the Argentinian context. Broad coding categories included:
Argentinian garment industry (features); Argentinian garment homework and
homeworkers (characteristics); social and institutional actors, behaviors and
discourses in the industry. In line with the aims of this paper, we subsequently
reorganized the data, making use of Cohen’s (2001) dimensions of denial.
Accordingly, we re-cast the original categories into three broad categories, forms,
strategies and levels of denial, as presented in Table 1. Names and identities of
informants and homeworkers have been changed in accordance with ethical
requirements for privacy and confidentiality.
Structure of the Argentinian Garment Industry
The [Argentinian] clothing industry is really complex because there are many
actors, various manners of commercialisation and production... every case is a
different story.’ (Fernando, INTI-CDI representative).
Our data suggest the garment industry is structured into three levels. The first level
is a registered first-tier factory that may also have retail outlets or supply international
and national brands. Formal factories employ full-time workers but may also employ
others under informal arrangements. For example, some factory workers may be
paid 4 hours work at the legal rate but work for another 8 hours informally, at a
reduced rate, which is not recorded in factory accounting. In addition to the
registered factory, there are worker cooperatives: these are often ‘reclaimed’
factories by groups of workers. Cooperatives are self-managed and aim to pay
workers according to the Law of Work Contracts 20.744 (1974).
A significant proportion of factories subcontract work to small informal workshops.
According to the ILO, informal economic activities are those that operate outside the
formal reach of the law, or where the law is not applied or not enforced (ILO, 2014).
An informal garment workshop (differently to a formal workshop) thus operates
outside the formal reach of the law. To illustrate within the garment industry, similar
clothing may be produced in both formal and informal enterprises, regardless of size.
The principal difference between them is their registration with bodies of governance,
such as fiscal and labour inspectorates. In Argentina, informal workshops constitute
the second level of the industry. They do not register their workers with labour
inspectorates and engage them for low piece-rates, at around half, or less, of the
legal rate of pay. Both the formal factories and informal workshops further sub-
Burchielli R & Delaney A (2016) The invisibilization and denial of work in Argentian garment
homework. Relations Industrielles Industrial Relations 71 (3) 468-493
contract work to individual homeworkers the third level whom are unregistered,
receive low piece rates, work to tight deadlines and work from their homes.
Informal (unregulated and unprotected) work has a substantial presence in the
Argentinian garment industry as it may be found in all, three, industry levels.
According to NGO Alameda, and INTI-CDI, eighty percent of garment production
occurs through various forms of subcontracting. These informants estimated that
informal garment production is split fairly equally between Bolivian migrant workers
in sweatshops and traditional Argentinian women homeworkers. Furthermore, they
estimate there are some 500,000 women garment homeworkers. Various informants
including NGO La Alameda, INTI-CDI (government sponsored, model garment and
textile hub) and the Ministry of Labour (MTEySS) suggest that informal work is linked
to both national and international garment brands. The NGO Alameda website
names over 100 clothing brands, including such international brands as Adidas, Le
Coq Sportiff, Puma, Fila, Lacoste, Levis and Zara (La Alameda, 2013). Government
statistics suggest that the garment industry is highly fragmented with many small to
medium manufacturers (Ministry of Industry, 2013).
Alongside the variety of formal/informal arrangements, the garment industry is
characterized as a low-wage industry, regardless of the employment mode. The
extensive use of subcontracting to smaller formal and informal workshops, and to
individual homeworkers is attributed to brands and employers who wish to ‘minimize
costs’, and are ‘reluctant to invest’ and ‘opportunist’ (Hernan, MTEySS informant).
Invisibilization and denial of garment homework in Argentina
In Argentina, the term ‘homework’ within the garment industry is mainly understood
as the work performed by male Bolivian immigrant workers, often referred to as
‘slave labour’, working in sweatshops, known locally as ‘clandestine workshops’.
More specifically, when the researcher put statements such as ‘Tell me about
garment homeworkers in Argentina’ or ‘Who are the garment homeworkers?’,
respondents invariably made reference to the Bolivian workers. The identification of
Bolivian immigrant workers as the garment homeworkers is pervasive in both
popular and official discourses in Argentina. For example, print and television media
regularly run reports about the Bolivian ‘clandestine workshops’ and ‘slave labour’
(Mardones, 2010). Interviews conducted at the Ministry of Labour (MTEySS), NGOs
and among academic and industry representatives indicated a similar interpretation,
attributing the phenomenon of the informal ‘clandestine workshops’ and the Bolivian
‘slave labour’ to idiosyncratic features of the local garment industry. Dominant
Argentinian discourses represent the terms homework and homeworker as meaning
the work activity of mostly male Bolivian immigrant workers.
Further probing about the presence of women homeworkers in the industry, as a
global feature of garment supply chains, was met with lack of knowledge, confusion
and resistance. Although most informants eventually agreed or admitted to these
women worker’s existence, there was initial resistance to seeing these women as
homeworkers, based on claims that they had ‘always existed’ (La Alameda;
MTEySS). The absolute reliance of the Argentinian garment industry on informal
women’s work is reconfirmed by the existence of concentrated informal garment
retail and production localities, such as La Salada (The Economist, 2014).
Eventually, it was possible to contact and interview Argentinian women homeworkers
Burchielli R & Delaney A (2016) The invisibilization and denial of work in Argentian garment
homework. Relations Industrielles Industrial Relations 71 (3) 468-493
for this research. However, the collective focus on Bolivian immigrants as the
garment homeworkers, coupled with a general ignorance in relation to local women
homeworkers, suggests the ‘non-recognition’ (Fraser, 2013; Ainsworth, 2002) of
women homeworkers by key institutions, accomplishing both their invisibilization and
denial of their work.
All sources reported that conditions in the clandestine workshops were dire: long
working hours; span of working hours over the full 24-hour day; overcrowded
housing in the garment workshop with poor amenities, and the regular practice of
‘hot-bedding’, where one bed is used for more than one worker, so that work can
continue over the 24 hour day. These conditions were confirmed in interviews with
Bolivian migrants who had worked in informal garment workshops, one Bolivian
homeworker commented:
The family workshops were the worst: I was paid the least money there and
had to work the longest hours, and the work was so exhausting. (David)
Despite Bolivian homeworkers having gained some public recognition, this has had
no positive impact on their labour conditions, suggesting that their situation has a
level of acceptance, and is thus normalized. On the other hand, local women
homeworkers are absent from popular and formal discourses. Like other instances of
homework around the world, such as India and Chile (Burchielli, et al, 2008), there is
evidence that Argentinian women’s garment homework is trivialized and euphemised
– invisibilization terminology and ignored, normalized and renamed – denial
terminology through discourses, social relations and conditions that render it as
Interviews and conversations with the local women garment homeworkers indicated
that they work arduously for very significant periods of their lives. Their work was
described as highly precarious and had all the characteristics of being unregulated:
working conditions included long working hours, low piece-rates; difficult/heavy work
affecting worker health; high employer expectations, and tight deadlines. A
homeworker interviewee commented:
I worked for a company that made top quality men’s shirts I left it because
of the mistreatment and the low pay. They paid me 30cents for an hour. For a
shirt-cuff with double seam: three cents a piece. I could make ten in one hour:
it was like begging (Tamara).
Consistent with globally documented evidence about homework (Burchielli et al.,
2014), the Argentinian homeworkers highlighted that sewing from home was a
survival strategy, i.e. they had no other employment choices, and homework was
combined with the unpaid caring work performed in the home, and thus bound up
with women’s traditional, unpaid role as carers. Due to the precarious nature of the
homework, underpayment and isolation, it was sometimes combined with other types
of paid work, such as paid domestic work in other people’s houses. A homeworker
I do all kinds of work to survive: sewing, selling, and domestic work. Actually, I
raised my kids on my sewing income, and then started to do domestic work
Burchielli R & Delaney A (2016) The invisibilization and denial of work in Argentian garment
homework. Relations Industrielles Industrial Relations 71 (3) 468-493
because I needed to spend some time out of home. I raised seven children on
my sewing (Maria).
A recognized feature of informal work is that women may engage in multiple forms of
income generation and do not fit neatly into the socially constructed boundaries
associated with workers on standard employment contracts and conditions (Vosko,
2010). Due to the economic imperatives to earn sufficient income to survive,
homeworkers may not identify as part of the garment workforce (Burchielli et al.,
2008). They do what they can to get by and normalize their situation. Despite living
within a few blocks of each other, these women were unaware of each other’s work;
they didn’t know about their labour rights or where they could make complaints, and
they were unaware of any groups or programs providing advocacy, assistance, or
information on work/employment issues. While they talked about their garment
production as work, they did not identify with the garment workforce or any labour
collective, nor did they question or resist their conditions of work, or their status quo.
This calls into question whether they identify as workers and, at the very least,
suggests that they do not identify as ‘standard workers’, indicating internalization and
unwitting co-option and collaboration with external discourses about homeworkers.
Normalizing women's work at home devalorizes their work (Krinsky and Simonet,
2012), results in work denial and can be attributed to the cultural construct of
patriarchy (Mohanty, 2006). The fact that homework is undertaken by women inside
the socially constructed, private sphere of the home, alongside their unpaid work,
allows the unpaid and unrecognized features of caring to flow to their paid work.
Consistent with the invisibilization literature (Krinksy & Simonet, 2012; Georges and
Vidal, 2012), the conditions of precariousness, isolation, home location, class and
gender all contribute to distinguishing homework from traditional ‘standard’ work,
justifying the sub-standard conditions of homework and the exploitation of
homeworkers. A key contribution of the invisibilization literature is explaining this as
a political project that serves the dominant interests of business and governments at
the expense of workers. As we shall see in the next section, despite the fact that
garment homeworkers may engage in this type of work for their entire lives, the
seasonal and precarious nature of this work enables invisibilization by trivializing,
euphemizing and ultimately denying homework as work and leads to workers
internalizing external attitudes (Renault, 2012). Employers and other groups deny
women’s status as workers and employees, preferring to rename homeworkers as
part-time or seasonal workers, or housewives.
Forms, strategies, and levels of denial of homework
The normalizing of women’s garment homework seen in worker’s self-perceptions,
above, is also observed in the discourses of key institutional actors, such as the
state and worker advocates. The Ministry of Labour constructed the normality of the
extensive presence of women homeworkers in the garment sector. The Ministry
representative would not be drawn into reflections about local women garment
homeworkers, a literal denial, preferring to focus instead on the aberrant features of
the garment industry, and its predilection for cheap, ‘low-road’ approaches ‘over
which the regulatory capacity of the state has great difficulty in making regulatory
advances’ (Hernan, MTEySS informant). At the time of data collection there was no
official discussion, nor any programs or policies focused on homework. The features
Burchielli R & Delaney A (2016) The invisibilization and denial of work in Argentian garment
homework. Relations Industrielles Industrial Relations 71 (3) 468-493
of garment production are known to facilitate labour abuses, however, regulation,
which is a critical redress mechanism, is not being invoked at all for the local women
homeworkers and has only rarely been invoked for the Bolivians (Pascucci, 2011). In
fact, the state clearly ignores these workers, as seen in the lack of any policy on the
issue, and its discourse illustrates the process of justifying as it rationalizes not doing
anything because it is too ‘difficult’. The State’s position illustrates the literal and
implicatory type of forms of denial, justifying its inaction to address labour violations
or injustices and enabling the status quo in relation to Argentinian homework. See
Table 2.
Table 2: Dimensions of invisibilization and denial of Argentinian garment homework
Sub category
Literal: ignoring, outright denial/invisibilization
Interpretive: giving a different meaning from
what seems apparent
Implicatory: not taking responsibility;
‘justifications, rationalizations, and evasions’
to deal with difficult external events
Government officials refuse to discuss the
existence of the women homeworkers
The Bolivian immigrants are the only
The State inaction on labour rights abuses,
attributed to problems in garment sector.
‘500,000 Argentinean women garment
homeworkers’ is unremarkable’.
The State is ‘incapable’ of regulating the
aberrant garment sector.
The meaning of homeworker as Bolivian
sweatshop workers.
Women homeworkers renamed as ‘just
Individual women homeworkers internalize
the domination and lack of recognition
Capitalism; Patriarchy; Neo-liberal
The State’s failure to use its powers.
Employer ‘low road’ strategies:
- Recruiting vulnerable migrants
- Women homeworkers, insecure &
irregular work on low piece rates
Socio Political
Politically motivated actions to implement
neoliberal agenda:
Partial visibilization
Bolivian migrant workers- low levels of
recognition and representation, sweatshop
work conditions
Women homeworkers made invisible via no
recognition or representation and poor work
Burchielli R & Delaney A (2016) The invisibilization and denial of work in Argentian garment
homework. Relations Industrielles Industrial Relations 71 (3) 468-493
Similarly, the NGO La Alameda reluctantly acknowledged that women homeworkers
historically existed in the national garment industry and were, in fact, the backbone
of the sector:
‘The industry has always depended largely on seamstresses working at
home.’ (Nelson: INTI-CDI representative and La Alameda member).
Despite La Alameda speculating the presence of around 500,000 women
homeworkers, their historical prevalence was constructed as so commonplace as to
be completely normal and unremarkable. According to the framework of denial, if an
event is normal, then inaction is justified (Cohen, 2001). La Alameda only advocates
on behalf of the Bolivian sweatshop workers and has neither contact nor any
advocacy role with the local women homeworkers. Through its exclusive focus, the
NGO is renaming the Bolivians as the homeworkers. We represent this in Table 2,
as an example of the strategies of denial from our empirical evidence.
The levels of denial in the framework refer to all the participants in the processes of
denial including the dominant cultural elements (patriarchy and
capitalism/neoliberalism). As noted in the scarce literature on informal Argentinian
garment production (Pascucci, 2011; Burchielli, et al., 2014), a generalized lack of
knowledge/awareness was encountered in relation to women garment homeworkers
and their labour issues. There are scant reports or evidence on the subject and no
targeted activism, nor government policy, indicating their non-recognition:
‘There are no specific initiatives. Individual women garment homeworkers are
not a recognized labour collective, protected by the state as a subject of
policies. I know of no research into the matter, and if there is some [local
women’s garment] homework, it is quite invisible’ (Women’s Policy Advocate:
Central de Trabajadores Argentinos).
The failure to recognize women garment homeworkers contributes to and
perpetuates their invisibilization. Non-recognition has an impact on different forms of
labour protection, such as labour collectives and government policies and programs,
all of which contribute to the invisibilization process (Krinsky and Simonet, 2012;
Georges and Vidal, 2012; Krinsky, 2012).
The data suggest that a range of institutional and social actors are implicated in
participating in the denial of homework. First, the State and its powers, including its
regulatory and social policy capabilities and responsibilities. Despite existing
homework laws specifically naming individual women garment homeworkers, and
the State’s responsibility for providing a functional labor inspectorate (Lieutier, 2009),
no-one invokes the legislation on their behalf. Moreover, La Alameda and INTI CDI
state that inspections do not occur: ‘They simply don’t do that’ (Fernando: INTI-CDI
Coordinator). Second, employers who recruit vulnerable workers from Bolivia to work
in sweatshops and who depend on individual local women garment homeworkers for
production are not meeting minimum labour standards. This results in both groups of
homeworkers experiencing poor conditions that invisibilize them as workers. Third,
the registered garment union, SOIVA, participates in the denial of work of both
groups of homeworkers by proposing to ban informal work and refusing to represent
homeworkers (Pascucci, 2011). Similarly, the NGO La Alameda, that only
Burchielli R & Delaney A (2016) The invisibilization and denial of work in Argentian garment
homework. Relations Industrielles Industrial Relations 71 (3) 468-493
recognizes and campaigns for Bolivian homeworker rights, also participates in the
denial of work of local homeworkers. Fourth, the Argentinian media only reports on
Bolivian migrant homework, and thus denies the existence of and invisibilizes local
women garment homeworkers.
The institutions and social actors participating in homework denial are represented in
Table 2, under levels of denial. Both groups of homeworkers are invisibilized via
social relations, however the invisibilization of local women homeworkers is more
profound: they have no representation; they are not the subject of any public policy
initiatives; they do not enter any form of public consciousness. Being situated in the
private sphere, combining paid work with their unpaid reproductive roles, the
invisibilization of the women homeworkers is exemplified and accomplished through
the ingrained inequalities due to class and gender. As suggested earlier, individuals
are co-opted and unwittingly collaborate in the denial and invisibilization of their
work, as they internalize their domination and exploitation (Renault, 2012). This is
demonstrated in the women homeworkers’ discourses reflecting a lack of knowledge
about their rights, as well as the lack of resistance regarding their isolation and
powerlessness. The denial and invisibilization of the women homeworkers and their
working conditions is partly explained by the social relations of patriarchy and
capitalism/neoliberalism, reproducing women’s domination and exploitation.
The interconnected forms, strategies and levels of denial provide a lens to reinterpret
the realities of Argentinian homework and demonstrate how the state and powerful
business actors abrogate their responsibilities. The invisibilization literature supports
this argument by proposing that the denial of work and work invisibilization are
politically motivated: a cheap, flexible and informal labour force, such as that
provided by homeworkers, coupled with weakened collectives and regulatory
environments fulfill the aims of neoliberalism that ‘increasingly depends on
invisibilized workers to function’ (Krinski and Simonet, 2012: 18). This insight can be
integrated into the work denial framework as a new dimension: Socio-political forces
of denial. See Table 2.
Invisibilization/visibilization and denial of work
Combining the insights of invisibilization with the denial framework results in an
expanded framework of denial and invisibilization. Table 2 suggests that
invisibilization and the denial of homework are socially constructed and
accomplished by individuals, various social actors and institutions, and the dominant
cultural and political processes (Krinsky and Simonet 2012; Georges and Vidal
2012), which they serve. In Argentina, as in other parts of the world, there is a trend
towards reduction of the state’s labor inspectorate role and a reluctance to
implement labor laws in regard to informal work, which contributes to invisibilization
(Krinsky 2012; Krinsky and Simonet 2012; Georges and Vidal 2012). Similarly, we
can observe the effects of patriarchy and capitalism in the Argentinian garment
industry, that profits from the use of invisibilized women working in the private
sphere, from their homes, to combine productive and reproductive roles, as
described earlier. These are concrete manifestations of the social relations that
produce invisibilization while also highlighting the critical roles of key
institutional/social actors, such as the state, and NGOs, unions and the media.
Invisibilization and visibilization are two sides of the same coin and are similarly
Burchielli R & Delaney A (2016) The invisibilization and denial of work in Argentian garment
homework. Relations Industrielles Industrial Relations 71 (3) 468-493
produced. The Bolivian homeworkers are partially visibilized due to the facts that La
Alameda has taken up their struggle within their broad, organizational charter to fight
against extreme forms of exploitation such as human trafficking, prostitution, child
labour and forced labour. A small, informal union was formed (UTC), giving the
mostly male, Bolivian homeworkers a collective identity and a common purpose and
voice. By making it their role to expose the living and working conditions of the
Bolivian immigrants, the NGO engaged the media in their campaign to inform the
general population about their plight. In the face of a non-functional labor
inspectorate, the NGO conducted and documented reports of labor violations, which
in turn were used (albeit a small number of times) to invoke the Homework Law
12.713. All of this resulted in Bolivian homeworkers entering the public
consciousness, eventually forcing the State to prosecute a small number of
employers for violations of the Homework Law 12.713. However, conditions for
Bolivian homeworkers have not improved.
Visibilization, as defined earlier, has never been achieved for Bolivian homeworkers.
Our informants stated that employers subject to prosecutions quickly closed
operations and fled, reopening elsewhere (La Alameda). This is a common strategy
in the garment industry internationally, leaving the homeworkers without work and
without recourse to wages recovery (HWW, 2004). While the Bolivians’ immigration
status is unresolved, they are forced to work informally in sweatshop conditions,
remaining largely invisibilized. Moreover, our evidence suggests that the Bolivians
leave the garment industry as soon as their migration status is formalized, which
means that the NGO is constantly organizing newly arrived Bolivian homeworkers,
and the small informal ‘union’ has limited potential to grow in size or capabilities,
resulting in limited power. At best, Bolivian homeworkers achieve partial
visibilization, which, as noted in the literature, shares greater similarity with
invisibilization and the denial of work (Krinsky and Simonet, 2012; Georges and
Vidal, 2012).
Visibilization, occurs when workers are employed under standard employment
contracts and are not coerced into informal arrangements. This enables collective
organizing and bargaining. As the opposite of denial, visibilization (or recognition) of
work can arguably be catalogued using the same dimensions shown in our
framework of denial (Table 2). Visibilization thus involves the engagement of
institutional and social actors together with individual workers, to define, determine
and acknowledge instances of work regardless of where it sits in the formal/informal
continuum. Similarly, visibilization relies on social relations and processes that
support recognition, such as regimes that promote worker representation and rights,
including state policies in favour of worker advocacy, and representation by active
unions, functional legislation and monitoring regimes, together with aligned business
There are very clear implications from our discussion above for the many thousands
of unacknowledged and politically neglected Argentinian garment homeworkers.
Like the millions of informal garment workers around the world (ILO, 2014), their
visibilization, if it is ever to come about, requires concerted efforts from the State,
employers, unions and other civil society actors. This could start simply with a union
or worker advocacy group taking an active interest in homeworkers and their working
conditions. Although not without complexities, homeworker organising efforts (HWW,
Burchielli R & Delaney A (2016) The invisibilization and denial of work in Argentian garment
homework. Relations Industrielles Industrial Relations 71 (3) 468-493
2004) can assist the process of visibilization and recognizing homework as a valid
form of work. La Alameda, with its high national profile, informal garment union and
advocacy expertise, could play a significant role in Argentina.
In this paper we analysed the invisibilization and denial of work of Argentinian
garment homework using insights from the invisibilization literature (Krinski and
Simonet, 2012) and applying a separate framework of denial (Cohen, 2001) to
theorize the position and power of two categories of homeworkers. In our analysis,
we argued that Bolivian immigrant homeworkers were partially visibilized, due to
NGO advocacy that led to public awareness and limited associational power.
However, we noted that as there were no improvements to their working conditions,
they remained largely invisibilized which can be explained by current social relations,
as manifested in business practices, the reluctance of the state to monitor and
control the garment industry, the lack of a strong union presence, and the effects of
We further argued that the work of individual women homeworkers was denied and
they were invisibilized: they had no representation; they were not the subject of any
public policy initiatives; they did not enter any form of public consciousness; they
internalized their own invisibilization and were unable to draw on any associational
power. The same social relations that explain the denial of their work explains their
invisibilization but they are additionally invisiblized through the effects of the
We extend the invisibilization literature by adapting Cohen’s (2001) concept of denial
and applying it with invisibilization to theorize homework. Drawing on invisibilization
and the denial of work as key insights we extend both concepts. We thus contribute
to deepening understanding of homework invisibilization, highlighting its links to
inequality that impact on women and other informal workers and the obstacles they
face for accessing rights to improve their work and economic wellbeing. By
documenting the Argentinian instance of homework, we are contributing to the
general knowledge of homework, which is still an under-researched area. Whereas
our data set conveys a broad picture of key actors within the Argentinian garment
industry, we acknowledge that the number of homeworker interviews in this research
is limited. Given the estimated size and the lack of public policy on garment
homework in Argentina, more research about homeworkers is required to support
social advances for homeworkers.
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... Firms engage in euphemisms, such as renaming homeworkers as seasonal workers, or "just housewives," to make them seem a less significant part of the supply chain workforce or to appear as non-workers. 3 Lack of recognition means the state fails to provide rights and protections, leaving homeworkers to market forces and private regulation. Likewise, unions and NGOs may avoid homeworkers' organizing. ...
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This chapter compares situationally different types of homework in the garment and footwear sectors in Australia and India. Informal homework exists in highly female-dominated workforces that experience regulation distance. The conceptual tool of invisibilization is used to analyze the work of homeworkers in national and global supply chains and identify the processes that contribute to homeworkers’ work being represented as non-work performed by non-workers. Though the Indian and Australian homeworkers differ with respect to regulation and recognition in the supply chain, both experience degrees of invisibilization. Invisibilization and homework connect the sociopolitical influences that accentuate gender inequalities through the devaluation of work, lack of collectivity, lack of social and legal protections, and lack of access to protections.
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The Unemployment and the poverty are problems which exist throughout in the world. Many methodologies and policies are proposed in the literature for defeating them. The Republic of Djibouti is among these countries which has the problems of the unemployment and the poverty. For fighting the unemployment and the poverty, the government of Djibouti takes many initiatives such as the Strategic Document for Reducing the Poverty (SDRP) in 2003 and National Initiative of Social Development (NISD) in 2007 and created agencies for promoting the entrepreneurships. Despite of all these measures, the unemployment and the poverty rate still remain high critical level. In this paper, we propose another alternative: the classification of unemployed persons, the creation of service industries by structuring the informal jobs and a manner to create manufacturing industries.Our proposed methodology allows the reducing of the unemployment rate of order 6% (six percent) and if we apply it on all informal jobs in Djibouti, the unemployment rate will decrease of order 20% at 25% (twenty to twenty five percent). We also discuss how to update the used measures till today.
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Labour markets in Australia have long been segmented by gender and race. This study compares two highly gendered and racially segmented labour markets, home-based family day care workers and garment homeworkers. The comparative cases examine the broader trends of migration, production and consumption that reinforce gender and racial stereotypes, and discourses that underpin representations that women workers are ideally suited to such work. We theorise the gender and racialised inequalities of homework based on the literature on invisibilisation and social reproduction to explore the vulnerable position of migrant women and the consequences of having limited options, such as legal and social protections and any capacity to collectively organise. Our analysis examines the roles and responses of institutions and conceptualises the socio-political factors that affect the characterisation of homework as non-work or as self-employed entrepreneurial activities. By mapping the differing regulatory trajectories of these two groups of homeworkers in terms of regulation and representation, we find both similarities and differences. While garment homeworkers have achieved recognition through legislation and social mobilisation, their circumstances leave them less likely to access such rights. By contrast, the failure to recognise family day care homeworkers, has left them to market forces. JEL code: J01
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Perspectives on the informal economy having evolved over time from a notion of a separate and disappearing sector to a broader focus that takes account of the wide range of economic activities that comprise informal work and focuses on processes and on the interdependencies of the formal and informal economic spheres. In this article we consider contemporary thinking about informal work and ask how useful the concept is for understanding changes occurring in work and employment in developed as well as developing economies so as to develop interventions to generate decent work. We use the lens of informality to explore how analysis of work and employment outcomes might give a more central place to the political and social location and, in particular, to gender in the construction of poor jobs. We propose that the concept of informality offered by feminist and other critical approaches is suitable for the analysis of much contemporary informalisation in both developed and developing economy contexts. We also propose that analysis can be strengthened through the adoption of the concept of ‘invisibilisation’. We examine some particular types of feminised informal work in which there are high levels of vulnerability and disadvantage – homework and domestic and care work. We conclude that the constructs of informal work and informalisation of work can be used to highlight how gendered institutional and social processes construct work as beyond the effective reach of regulation.
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This article considers Argentina’s empresas recuperadas por sus trabajadores (worker-recuperated enterprises, or ERTs) as transformative learning organizations . ERTs are illustrative of how workers’ conversions of capitalist firms into worker cooperatives—especially conversions emerging from troubled firms and in moments of deep socio-economic crises—transform workers (from managed employees to self-managed workers), work organizations (from capitalist businesses to labour-managed firms), and communities (from depleted to revitalized and self-provisioning localities). Theoretically, the study is grounded in class-struggle, workplace learning, and social action learning approaches. These theoretical perspectives help the study work through how workplace conversions by workers, when converting troubled investor-owned or proprietary firms into worker coops, act as catalysts for contesting workplace exploitation and capitalist crises, while also beginning to move beyond them by forging new social relations of production and exchange. In the case of Argentina’s ERTs, crises in the political economy and micro-economic crises at the point of production during the collapse of the neoliberal model at the turn of the millennium heightened workers’ self-awareness of their situations of exploitation and motivated collective action. As a result, new worker cooperatives were created that also stimulated the social, cultural, and economic renewal of surrounding communities. The study’s research method relies on extended case studies of four diverse ERTs, which included ethnographic observation and in-depth interviews. Observations of daily workflows were conducted, as well as interviews and informal conversations with founding and newer ERT workers. In a more structured portion of the interview protocol, key-informants were asked to reflect on how they had personally changed after being involved in the ERT, and how production practices and involvement with the community had transformed in the process of conversion. The article concludes by outlining how worker, organizational, and community transformations emerge from workers’ processes of informal learning and learning in struggle as they collectively strive to overcome macro- and micro-economic crises and learn to become cooperators. This learning, the study shows, occurs in two ways: intra-cooperatively via informal workplace learning, and inter-cooperatively between workers from different ERTs and with surrounding communities. The self-management forged by ERTs thus embodies new, cooperative, and community-centered values and practices for these workers that, in turn, sketch out different possibilities for economic and productive life in Argentina.
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This article explores and applies Kalleberg’s (2009, 2012, 2013) concept and dimensions of precarious work in relation to garment homework in Argentina. Although precarious work exists across formal and informal employment, its nature and dimensions are most commonly researched in relation to formal work in developed economies where the loss of standard conditions can be documented. Similarly, homework is most usually discussed as a category of informal work, in the context of developing countries, within which precariousness is one among numerous aspects of adverse job quality. Applying the concept of precariousness enables homework to be assessed systematically against specific labour standards, yielding a more powerful analysis than reference to a general deficit. This may increase our understanding of homework especially with regard to addressing labour standards.
Neoliberalism--the doctrine that market exchange is an ethic in itself, capable of acting as a guide for all human action--has become dominant in both thought and practice throughout much of the world since 1970 or so. Writing for a wide audience, David Harvey, author of The New Imperialism and The Condition of Postmodernity, here tells the political-economic story of where neoliberalization came from and how it proliferated on the world stage. Through critical engagement with this history, he constructs a framework, not only for analyzing the political and economic dangers that now surround us, but also for assessing the prospects for the more socially just alternatives being advocated by many oppositional movements.
En s’appuyant sur une recherche sur les transformations de la main-d’œuvre chargee de l’entretien des parcs municipaux a New York, cet article se propose de montrer combien le travail des benevoles d’une part et celui des allocataires de l’aide sociale contraints de travailler d’autre part (workfare), s’averent, depuis la crise budgetaire des annees 1970, necessaires au bon fonctionnement, voire a la survie du departement des parcs et jardins de la ville. Si tout eloigne ces deux categories de travailleurs atypiques qui appartiennent a des classes sociales souvent diametralement opposees et s’inscrivent dans des rapports au travail d’entretien, des formes de reconnnaissance sociale et des regimes de mobilisation pour le moins differents, travailleurs benevoles et workfare workers se ressemblent pourtant dans les usages que la municipalite a pu faire de leur travail, un travail non reconnu comme tel et non remunere, invisibilise, au nom de la citoyennete qu’il exprime ou permettrait de regagner.
The Formalization of Employment as a Test of Invisible Work : Two Cases of Women Service Workers in Brazil Based on field studies about domestic workers in Rio de Janeiro and two recently created categories of social workers (health community agents and social protection agents) in São Paulo, this article aims to analyze the effects of formalization on female employment in the service sector in Brazil. The first part deals with the ongoing process of juridical visibilization within these forms of employment. Next, the analysis of work insists on the maintenance of invisible work, which still characterizes these activities, in spite of the juridical visibilization of the professional categories of these female workers. Finally, we will show how these processes of juridical visibilization are flexible and keep part of the work invisible. In the end, we will ask about the impact of the formalization of the employment status on the content of work, trying to find out whether juridical visibilization contributes to a better recognition of the preexisting work content or if it contributes to its transformation.