Long time perspectives on home-based industrial work



STOCKHOLM MAY 22-24, 2018

Today, home-based workers form an integral part of global and local production chains, and make up a significant part of the workforce. In this case home-based work refers to production of goods by workers from in or around their own home. There are two types of home-based workers: sub-contracted workers working for a contractor, shop or factory and self-employed home-based workers. Although home-based workers form and have formed a large and important group in the labour market, their work often remains un-recognized by official statistics and understudied in different fields of academia such as history, sociology and economics.

The aim of this conference is to provide an international platform to further knowledge on home-based workers, both self employed and sub-contracted, in a global perspective from the 19th century until today. Researchers and activists from all disciplines, working on home-based workers in both contemporary and historical contexts are welcome to submit proposals.

The conference is organized by the Swedish Labour movement Archive and Library in cooperation with the Centre for Women’s Development Studies in Delhi and the WIEGO (Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing) Network.

The conference is funded through Riksbankens Jubileumsfond (the Swedish Foundation for Humanities and Social Sciences).

We have invited abstracts for papers (or other forms of presentations) discussing home-based work under the following broad themes:

  • Visibility and statistics
  • Legal rights and protection
  • Organization and voice
  • Negotiations and policy leverage
  • Sectoral profiles and trends

Organising committee

Jane Barrett (Wiego), Indrani Mazumdar (CWDS), Silke Neunsinger (Swedish Labour Movement’s Archives and Library) & Malin Nilsson (Swedish Labour Movement’s Archives and Library & University of Lund).

Program (pdf)

Tuesday 22 May 2018

Public lecture

Organizers: ARAB, Arbetarnas Kulturhistoriska Sällskap, CWDS, Union to Union and WIEGO  

Venue: ABF-huset Stockholm, Sveavägen 41

18:00-20:00    A factory in the living room- the struggle for better working conditions, wages and protection for homeworkers around the world

Conference opening by Tomas With, vice president of IF Metall

Marty Chen, WIEGO & Harvard University: “Home-Based Work: A Lens on Labour Markets, Supply Chains and Public Policies”

Eileen Boris, University of California, Santa Barbara: “Long term perspectives on home-based work”

Chair: Silke Neunsinger, ARAB


Wednesday 23 May 2018

Venue: ARAB, Elektronvägen 2

08:30-08:45 Welcome, introduction, practical information

08:45-10:15 Session 1: Statistics and visibility 

Introduction and comment: Joann Vanek, WIEGO

Laura Ekholm, University of Helsinki: “The garment industry and the home-based industrial work in the Swedish and Finnish business census”

Srabani Maitra, University of Glasgow: “Redefining “enterprising selves”: exploring the negotiation of South Asian immigrant women working as home-based entrepreneurs in Canada”

Maria Tambouko, University of East London, UK: ”Home-based work: genealogies and assemblages”

10:15-10:45 Coffee

10:45-12:15 continuing Session 1: Statistics and visibility  

Ellina Samantroy Jena, Ministry of Labour and Employment, Government of India: “The Invisible Workers: Capturing Home Based Work in India”   

Indira Hirway, Director and Professor of Economics Center For Development Alternatives, Ahmedabad: ”Trade Liberalization and Home-based Workers: Critical Insights Emerging from Their Time Use”

Sona Mitra, Centre for Budget and Governance Accountability India: “Home-based Manufacturing Work for Women in India: Drivers and Dimension”             

12:15-13:00 Lunch

13:00-14:30 Session 2: Panel of representatives of Home Based Worker organisations from South Asia, South East Asia, Eastern Europe, Latin America and Africa

Chair: Karin Pape, WIEGO

HomeNet South Asia (HNSA), HomeNet South East Asia (HNSEA), HomeNet Eastern Europe (HNEE), Latin American Home Based Worker Coordinadora, and the Kenyan Federation for Alternative Trade (KEFAT)

14:30-15:00 Coffee

15:00-16:30 Session 3: Regulation

Introduction and comment: Eileen Boris, University of California, Santa Barbara  

Eloisa Betti, University of Bologna: ”Industrial Homework and Fordism in Western Europe.  Women’s agency, labour legislation and trade unions’ action in Golden Age Italy (1945-1975)”

Marlese Von Broembsen, WIEGO: “Realizing Rights for Homeworkers Participating in Global Supply Chains” (co-authored with Jenna Harvey)

Lin Lim, WIEGO: “The impact of a code of conduct on homeworkers”        

16:30- 17:00 Summing-up

Comment by Neetha Pillai, CWDS

18:30 Dinner

Thursday 24 May 2018

Venue: ARAB, Elektronvägen 2

8:30-10:00 Session 4: Sectoral profiles and trends

Introduction and commentator: Chris Bonner, WIEGO and Indrani Mazumdar, CWDS

Gabriela Mitidieri, University of Buenos Aires: “A virtuous woman knows how to sew”. Labour, craft and domesticity in Buenos Aires City during the decades of 1850 and 1860

Leda Papastefanaki, University of Ioannina: “Sewing at home (Greece, 1870s -1930s). A global history perspective”                

Ann Kristin Klausen, Helgeland museum: “Nesnalobben- a shoe from Norway made by homeworkers”

10:00-10:30 Coffee

10:30-12:15 Continuing Session 4: Sectoral profiles and trends

T M Tonmoy Islam, Elon University: “Home-based work of Bangladeshi women”

Narumol Nirathron, Thammasat University: ” Homework in Thailand:  A Challenge to Formalization” 

Archana Prasad, Jawaharlal Nehru University: “Homeworkers and Labour Markets under Contemporary Capitalism: A Case Study of Export Oriented Garment Sector in India”

12:15-13:00 Lunch

13:00-14:30 Session 5: Agency  

Introduction and comment: Jane Barrett, WIEGO and Malin Nilsson, University of Lund/ARAB

Leena Enbom, University of Helsinki: ”The Self-Employed. Home-Based Work in Low-Income Households in Helsinki, 1890–1960″

Saniye Dedeoglu, Mugla University: “Knitting Women’s Home-Based Work into Istanbul’s Garment Industry”                                              

Nicholas Fernandez Bravo, Universidad de Buenos Aires: “Beyond the rhetoric of ‘slave labor’: subaltern experiences of self-organization among precarious workers in Argentina.”       

14:30-15:00 Coffee

15:00-16:30 Continuing session 5: Agency

K. Kalpana, Indian institute of technology: “Refusing invisibility: Women workers in sub-contracted work in a South Indian city”

Sonia George, WIEGO: “Re-engaging Work Spheres into Labour Spaces: The Micro/Macro Politics of Home Based Work”

Janine Berg, ILO: “Contemporary digital homework: Old challenges, different solutions?”

16:30-17:00 Summing up and concluding discussion

Final comment by Indu Agnihotri, CWDS, Marty Chen, WIEGO and Silke Neunsinger, ARAB.