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Building the collective at times of precarity: precarious labour and its countermovements

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - COLLECTITUDE (Building the collective at times of precarity: precarious labour and its countermovements)

Okres sprawozdawczy: 2020-01-01 do 2021-12-31

The COLLECTITUDE project explored conceptually and empirically current and future transformations in the world of work at times of precarity, by researching the relationship between precarisation, on the one hand, and agency and social transformation, on the other, proposing to develop a new analytical perspective that is able to articulate this double movement and to capture both national and transnational social processes underway. The research aimed at investigating: a) the political economy of precarity; b) the relationship between precarious work and the precarity of livelihoods; c) how collective agency and different initiatives of social and solidarity economy (SSE) unfold under precarious forms of labour; d) paths of intervention, with the purpose is to advance knowledge on the futures of work and social protection.
Empirically, the project was grounded on the Portuguese reality and on the comparative analysis of two specific sectors: the construction and arts sectors. This comparison was justified by the objective conditions of precarity faced by both and their contrasting features (in terms of education levels, production processes, social composition, and different traditions of collective organization). The methodological approach was based on qualitative research, combined with the analysis of secondary data.
The project's results have an impact at four main levels: (1) at theoretical level, providing an in-depth theoretical framework for precarity studies; (2) at empirical level, producing new knowledge on the construction and arts sectors and developing a general analytical framework for advancing the study of precarity within different forms of work and economic practices; (3) at social level, by mapping collective forms of workers organisation and SSE as a ground for mutual learning and for supporting alternative futures; and (4) at policy level, unveiling the normative character of prevailing approaches to precarity and respective political effects and suggesting avenues for rethinking policy approaches to work and social protection in contemporary societies.
The COLLECTITUDE project implemented a two-year work plan, developed at a civil society organisation (A3S) through a participatory and multi-method approach. After the in-depth review of the literature, the project's methodology was based on qualitative research, through semi-structured interviews, document analysis and digital ethnography due to the need to adapt to the pandemic context. This was combined with the analysis of secondary extensive studies and datasets, allowing to build linkages beyond the specificities of the cases and processes analysed in depth.
As results, the project actively contributes to new theoretical, analytical and empirical approaches to work and precarity, framing it as a multi-dimensional and relational process, which is constitutive of capitalism.
The theoretical framework maps major lines of thought on precarity studies, unveils common normative slants and contributes to the critical questioning of the status of work, in its different forms (productive or reproductive, formal or informal, paid or unpaid, market or socially oriented), in contemporary capitalist societies.
The project developed a relational analytical framework for advancing the study of precarity within different forms of work and economic practices, which identifies four interdependent levels of analysis – macro; meso/ organisational; micro; and prospective – along with key dimensions inside each level.
The comparative analysis of the arts and construction sectors in Portugal shows that precarity is contingent on governmental options and global capitalism dynamics, with structuring impacts at the organizational level and on employment relations. The Covid-19 pandemic further allowed to observe how different sectors were impacted unevenly, exposing the structural precarity of some and triggering new processes of labour organizing.
The project also developed a typology of work collectives that have emerged in the last decades, which reveal different constraints, challenges and strategies of survival: on the one hand, they present transformative proposals; on the other, they are also subject to processes of precarity and commodification, reinforcing the status quo.
The project advances new avenues for rethinking current research and policy approaches to work and social protection in contemporary societies, contributing to the development of more transformative and imaginative ways of rethinking people's work, livelihoods and economic practices.
COLLECTITUDE has developed measures for exploitation and dissemination of the results to different target audiences, expanding the impact of the action, namely: the scientific community (scientific papers, conferences); workers organisations and other stakeholders (workshops, webpage, book chapters, report to stakeholders, networking and collective reflection); policymakers (cross-sectoral events, policy briefs).
The exploitation of results continues after the project ends, through the consolidation of an action-research group at the intersection of precarity and SSE studies and the development of new projects that build on COLLECTITUDE (notably a new observatory in the field of work inclusion).
The project's results have an impact in at least four levels: scientific, empirical, social, and policy levels.
First, COLLECTITUDE has worked on the conceptualization of precarity, through an in-depth literature review, which provides a critique of precarity and advances current knowledge frontier. It frames an innovative approach to precarity and feeds ongoing discussions on the place of work and social protection in contemporary societies.
Second, at empirical level, important contributions draw on evidence from the fieldwork and the comparative analysis of the arts and construction sectors in Portugal. The research produced new knowledge on their political and economic structuring at the macro level, their specific sectoral configurations, and the respective responses in terms of collective forms of workers organization. The project has developed an innovative relational analytical approach for advancing the study of precarity (and the prospects of overcoming it) within different forms of work and economic practices.
Thirdly, at social level, the mapping of different collective forms of workers organisation provides a ground for mutual learning and for supporting the fight against precarity and envisioning new possibilities. The fact of being hosted at a civil society organisation also contributes to expand the socioeconomic impact of the project, given the continuous contact with organizations and professionals on the ground, creating links between research, higher education and SSE, and promoting the capacity building of organizations and professionals.
Finally, the transference of research results into policy recommendations suggests avenues for rethinking current approaches to work and social protection, notably in terms of the possibilities of universal social protection dissociated from people's participation in the labour market.
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