Labour Exploitation: Crossing the Threshold between Acceptable and Unacceptable Labour Condition
HUMILIATION, DEGRADATION, DEHUMANISATION: HUMAN DIGNITY VIOLATED, Paulus Kaufmann, Hannes Kuch, Christian Neuhauser, and Elaine Webster, eds., Springer Publications, 2010.
Posted: 25 Jan 2010 Last revised: 10 Feb 2021
Date Written: 24 10, 2010
'Dignity' is often evoked in the pursuit of better labor standards, and labor exploitation is often found to entail a loss of human dignity. In a bid to understand the meaning of 'dignity' in the context of labor, this chapter examines and compares the threshold between acceptable labor conditions and labor exploitation from the perspectives of the International Labour Organization (ILO) as international standard-setter, of selected NGOs as international monitors, and of a field-study of Fairtrade laborers as subjects of international labor standards. The distinction between the material and the immaterial elements of the labor relationship emerges as a key to all three perspectives, with the ILO demonstrating a prevailing tendency to link dignity with the immaterial elements of the labor relationship. In response, this chapter asks whether it is enough to consider dignity as contingent on the immaterial elements of the employment relationship or whether dignity in labor does not also require the satisfaction of certain material needs of the laborer.
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