Precarious work and its complicit network

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How does precarious work entail social vulnerabilities and moral complicities? Theorists of precarity pose two challenges for analysing labour conditions in Asia. Their first challenge is to distinguish the new kinds of social vulnerability which constitute precarious work. The second is to assign moral responsibility in the social network that produces vulnerability in depoliticised and morally detached ways. In this article, the social and normative dimensions of precarious work are connected through a conceptual investigation into how Singapore allocates responsibility for managing temporary migrant labour. First, it analyses how various management strategies, driven by globalisation and government deregulation, increase worker vulnerabilities. These strategies intensify relations of dependence, disempowerment and discrimination, which the workers may accommodate or resist in limited ways. Second, it assesses why the strategies leave the state, employers, agents and others complicit in producing the vulnerabilities. These actors enable, collaborate with, or condone the production of precarity. Their complicity is complicated by varying support or resistance to reforms. The result is a novel conceptual scheme for analysing the complicit network behind precarious work, which can be used in other sites of precarity where some are complicit in the vulnerability of others.
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Archival date: 2019-02-17
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