MSc Development Finance

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Work and Employment in the Global Economy

Course unit fact file
Unit code MGDI60131
Credit rating 15
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


Will innovation inevitably lead to job losses? Why has there been a significant increase in female employment within export-oriented production in recent decades? Can social upgrading occur without economic upgrading? How have the rise of global value chains and global production networks affected the profile of work? Who builds infrastructure and what type of work is involved in infrastructure-led development? Why have labour contractors come to play an important role in coordinating the recruitment of migrant workers?In this course, students will engage with distinct yet inter-related dimensions of work and employment in the global economy, such as migration, gender, informality, and unfree labour. These will be explored in the context of changing dynamics of work, such as technological innovation and mobility, as well as precarisation and insecurity. The course first introduces conventional and critical theories of labour, work, and employment. Students are encouraged to engage with different perspectives to gain a nuanced understanding of the key concepts and debates in the field. These include, but are not limited to the role of supply and demand, global value chains and global production networks, and market embeddedness. Throughout the rest of the course, students will be asked to investigate how these different approaches relate to workers' rights, organised labour, and labour market regulations. Students will then engage with distinct, yet inter-related dimensions of work and employment in the global economy, such as migration, gender, informality, and unfree labour.


The aim of this course is to examine issues of work and employment in the global economy. Students will be able to develop an appreciation for different conceptual approaches and be exposed to key debates and significant trends.

The course will cover conventional and critical theories of labour markets, work and employment. Specific dimensions of labour markets will be covered, such as economic migration, gender, informality and unfree labour.

These will be examined within the context of the changing dynamics of work in a global economy, including both rising mobility and increasing insecurity of work.


Teaching and learning methods

The course involves 2-hour lectures and seminars, and one film screening. This module draws on a range of teaching and learning activities, from lectures, classroom discussions and independent learning by students. Students are encouraged to approach the subject with an open mind, questioning their own assumptions and engaging in collegial debates with their peers. This will support students in fostering critical thinking skills, including self-reflection, through small and large group discussions, case studies, group activities, simulations, and debates.

Knowledge and understanding

  • Demonstrate a grounded understanding of conceptual approaches, empirical trends and issues concerning labour regulation
  • Understand and be able to compare conceptual and analytical debates over work and employment in the development of the global economy
  • Be able to critically evaluate empirical data, case studies and official reports on work and employment in the global economy

Intellectual skills

  • Be informed of different paradigmatic approaches to analysis of the work and employment in a global economy
  • Critically assess and compare a variety of analytical perspectives
  • Apply different conceptual perspectives to analysis of work and employment across diverse development contexts and regions (including in Asia, Africa and Latin America)

Practical skills

  • Develop critical, analytical, writing, communication and presentation skills

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written exam 70%
Written assignment (inc essay) 30%

Feedback methods

Formal feedback on written assignments will be provided via Blackboard. Students can also submit an essay outline for comments and feedback. In class discussion and interaction is strongly encouraged.

Recommended reading

• N. Castree, N. Coe, K. Ward and M. Samers (2003) Spaces of Work: Global Capitalism and the Geographies of Labour London, Sage

• S. Barrientos (2019) Gender and Work in Global Value Chains: Capturing the Gains? Cambridge University Press

• G. Gereffi (2006) The New Offshoring of Jobs, Geneva, International Labour Organisation

• G. LeBaron (2020) Combatting modern slavery: Why labour governance is failing and what we can do about it. London, John Wiley & Sons

•  W. Milberg (ed) (2004) Labor and the Globalization of Production Basingstoke, Palgrave

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 20
Tutorials 10
Independent study hours
Independent study 120

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Elisa Gambino Unit coordinator

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