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  3. Development, Labour and Human Rights

Development, Labour and Human Rights (LAWS90018)

Graduate courseworkPoints: 12.5On Campus (Parkville)

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Year of offer2019
Subject levelGraduate coursework
Subject codeLAWS90018
Availability(Quotas apply)
FeesSubject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date

The proper role to be played by labour standards and human rights in the construction of the international economic order, and in the development process, is an intricate issue and a matter of controversy. This subject examines the relationship between (economic) development and labour law – exploring the place of rights within both investment and trade-led development models, and the contrasting social justice-based developmental approaches.

In investigating the role of labour law in development, this subject interrogates the rationales, content, institutions and regulatory frameworks relating to labour standards and human rights at regional and international levels. This entails not only a technical analysis of transnational instruments and supervisory structures but also detailed consideration of underlying political and economic concerns. Such regulatory frameworks for labour that have prevailed in the global ‘North’ have been the basis of transplantation and experimentation in the 'South', and might obscure the actual characteristics of labour relations in the ‘South’. The subject examines the redefinition of labour law, paying close attention to North-South relations in the regulation of labour; to the relationship between labour rights and human rights; and to the limits of rights discourse.

Attention will be given to various case studies. Illustrative topics include:

  • Introduction: Re-imagining labour law for development
  • Labour and the turn to human rights discourse
  • The changing nature of work: informalisation, ‘precariatisation’, and the rise in low quality work
  • Defining labour in the global North and the global South: Unpaid labour, family employment and care work
  • Setting, supervising and enforcing international labour standards
  • ‘Core’ labour rights and the International Labour Organisation
  • Development, free trade and labour rights: socio-economic rights as a condition of international trade
  • Competing regimes and norms on migrant labour
  • The regional and sub-regional dimension: the European Union, the African Union and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations
  • Labour dimensions of codes of conduct, social labelling and investor initiatives: effectiveness and legitimacy
  • ‘Post-industrial’ labour law in the global North and South: Alternative models of social protection and social justice, Universal Basic Income and employment guarantees

Intended learning outcomes

A student who has successfully completed this subject will:

  • Have an advanced and integrated understanding of the ideas, doctrines and framework sustaining international labour rights and human rights in particular with respect to development processes
  • Be able to critically examine, appraise, interpret and assess labour and human rights law, not only on their own terms, for example for clarity, consistency and coherence, but also from other points of view
  • Be an engaged participant in debates regarding emerging and contemporary issues in the field, such as the informalisation of labour, ‘core’ labour rights, and the growth of the regional dimension of a labour law for development
  • Be able to relate the legal rules to the experience in practice of those whom they most directly concern, considering the impact of labour regulation and human rights norms on workers, developing states, multinational enterprises, and their function in society and the global economy more generally
  • Have developed analytical and research skills, as well as the capacity to understand and evaluate complex legal sources and literature, and literature in related disciplines
  • Have the cognitive and technical skills to generate critical and creative ideas relating international labour rights and human rights in relation to development, and to critically evaluate existing legal theories, principles and practices with creativity and autonomy
  • Have the cognitive and technical skills to independently examine, research and analyse existing and emerging legal issues relating to international labour rights and human rights in particular with respect to development processes
  • Have the communication skills to clearly articulate and convey complex argumentation regarding labour law and human rights in developing and industrialised economies.

Last updated: 20 July 2019