Global Work and Employment


The Global Work and Employment theme draws on an inter-disciplinary perspective to critically examine contemporary developments in work and employment in the global economy.

Activities range from developing conceptual frameworks to enable theorising work to engaging with stakeholders and practitioners to generate impact.

Research, engagement and impact are focused on three themes, which are well-established and supported by current and recent research grants as well as income generation and consultancy.

Areas of expertise

  • Emerging global divisions of labour and their theoretical underpinnings, such as changes in global production networks and processes of uneven development. This encompasses an examination of spatial changes and the (re)location of the production of goods and services reflected in dynamic trends in foreign direct investment and offshoring and outsourcing. In addition, at the level of the firm, multinational corporations (MNCs) are examined, as agents of internationalisation. Complex and contested organisational terrains are investigated to underpin issues raised with regard to staffing and strategy as they operate across borders.
  • The rise and emergence of new forms of labour. In particular, there is a body of cutting edge research on digital labour. This examines the social and economic impacts of virtual labour and the profound implications for work in the global economy. The theme also includes an established interest and reputation in the notion of creative workers, and the film industry in particular. A developing strand of research looks at the contested notion of precarity, which addresses increasing societal concerns about insecure work.
  • Inclusion and exclusion in the work place. It examines the wider impacts of global restructuring and the rise of new forms of work in terms of their outcomes for labour with regard to equality, diversity, gender and the role of trade unions in promoting workplace inclusion. A specific focus is associated with migrant workers and the challenges this presents for workplace cohesion. In particular, there is an interest in how trade unions and other organisations cooperate across boundaries to promote integration.

The overall focus on work and employment is global, both theoretically and empirically. Particular expertise is demonstrated in relation to the United Kingdom, the United States, the European Union, Central and Eastern Europe, China and other emerging economies.


  • The dynamics of virtual work
  • The labour mobility of health workers, migration and the role of trade unions in workplace integration
  • Labour relations and the political economy of transformation in Central and Eastern Europe in the post financial crisis era.
  • The micro- politics of multinational organisation, international management, diversity, and the role of social agency
  • Restructuring of Chinese firms and labour markets
  • The political-economy of Chinese foreign direct investment in Europe and its effect on employment
  • Exclusion and inequality in the global creative and cultural industries
  • Industrial relations and social movements in the United Kingdom and Europe.

Funded projects

  • COST The Dynamics of Virtual Work, Chair of Action, Ursula Huws, UK Management Committee Member, Keith Randle (45 countries, Euros 180,000 per year for 4 years)
  • FP7 RESCUE Socio-economic patterns of resistance in times of crisis
  • EU funding ‘Digital footprint’ Ursula Huws (Simon Joyce Research Assistant)


Research Students

Supervisory capacity

There are six members of the group who have supervised two or more doctorates to completion and are engaged in both internal and external examinations.

In addition, two other members of the group are in the process of supervising their first doctorates to completion.


Journal Editorships

The theme is host to two journals:

  • Competition and Change – Editor-in-Chief, Hulya Dagdeviren, Associate Editors, Jane Hardy, Graham Hollinshead, Keith Randle.
  • Work, Organization, Labour and Globalization – Editor-in-Chief, Ursula Huws, Associate Editor Keith Randle

Guest editing

  • Hollinshead, G. (with Soulsby, A.,  Steger, T. and Hyman, R.) (2016) Work, Organisation and Industrial Relations in the Age of Global Economic Crisis; Employment and change in the Post- Socialist Societies of Europe’ ‘Guest editor for special issue of European Journal of Industrial Relations (forthcoming).
  • Hollinshead, G. (with Clegg. S. and Geppert, M.) Politicization and Political Contests in the Contemporary MNC. Guest Editorship Human Relations, (forthcoming).

Engagement and Impact

Ursula Huws has engaged extensively with the European Commission over three decades. This is reflected in her successfully leading two bids for HBS for COST and FP7 funding. Ursula has recently completed a report for the EU-OHSA on ‘Online labour exchanges, or ‘crowdsourcing’: implications for occupational safety and health’. She has just been commissioned by FEPS and UNI-Europa to undertake a project ‘A Digital Footprint: Addressing Labour Market Issues and Revenue Foregone Specific to Digitalised Labour’ (research assistant Simon Joyce). Ursula’s work on digital labour is one of the projects that has been selected by the University of Hertfordshire to receive support in dissemination. More information about policy impacts from Ursula Huws.

Engagement with practitioners includes the continued development of an impact case study with the European Public Services Union on migrant workers and mobility in the health service; the team includes Jane Hardy, Moira Calveley and Steve Shelley.

In addition, Keith Randle was a panel member with Ken Loach, Jimmy McGovern and Dan Wilks at an event ‘Class: On the Screen and Behind the Scenes’ at BECTU Freelancers Fair, Ravensbourne in June 2015. Graham Hollinshead gave a plenary talk ‘The strategy of Chinese investors on fringes of Europe’ at the European Trade Union Institute (ETUI) symposium on ‘Chinese investments in Europe: business strategies and labour impacts’.