Project A03 (2022-25)

Worlds of Labour: Coverage and Generosity of Employment Law

Project A03 examines the phenomenon of "legal segmentation" as an inherent element of employment law worldwide (1880 to 2022). It is assumed that employment law not only entails protection but also segmentation, that is, externally determined status gradations between dependent employees. Accordingly, the Standard Employment Relationship (SER) in particular protects insiders but leaves outsiders relatively unprotected. The development of the Worlds of Labour (WoL) database as part of WeSIS in the first phase enables us to determine the functions underlying legal segmentation - standard-setting (S), privileging (P) and equalising (E) - and the SPE regulation types derived from them over time. In phase 2, this will allow for a quantitative and qualitative evaluation of employment law norms with respect to their coverage and generosity for working people, historically directed and on a global scale. In a cross-disciplinary approach, this will be achieved by both quantitative and qualitative norm analysis, and implementation research.

We will test three assumptions derived from historical institutionalism, the first being that global horizontal and vertical interdependencies have led to an increase of coverage and generosity of employment law, however, in a split and polarised manner. We further theorize that the spread of SPE types from the Global North to the Global South (e.g. in form of the SER) has transferred legal segmentation, and segmented de-jure patterns can equally be observed along (post-)colonial path dependencies. Thirdly, we suppose de-facto implementation of employment norms in the Global South to be strongly influenced both by international and national conditions, such as international organisations and trade agreements, multinational enterprises and their domestic labour regime, but also trade unions and NGOs.

We test these assumptions in three streams of work. A first legal stream traces the worldwide distribution patterns of segmenting and equalizing employment norms over time and explores them in depth by legal-interpretative means. The second legal stream uses qualitative legal-historical in-depth analysis to identify the colonial and postcolonial patterns of segmenting employment-law, including formal and informal employment. The third social science stream determines de facto coverage and generosity of legal norms in three countries of the Global South conducting comparative case studies on regional value chains of automobile production. It examines whether and how different SPE regulatory patterns affect the prevalence of SERs, precarious employment, and informality along the regional value chain in this privileged labour market in combination with other national and international interdependencies.

Through the results of the streams of work as a whole, de jure and de facto coverage and generosity of employment law, in both their segmenting and equalising functions, are identified in varying breadth and depth worldwide and explained by international linkages in combination with national factors.