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Research

Work is not everything

by Claudia Isabel Rittel
Global problems will only be solved if developing and developed countries cooperate. Accordingly, it makes sense for scientists from rich and poor nations to pool their efforts to find sensible approaches.

To have work is not the only thing that matters to human wellbeing, labour conditions are relevant too. The international debate about decent work, however, is mostly focussing on factory work, whereas other sectors are neglected. While the majority of the people in poor countries live in rural areas, “employment policy to a large extent ignores” the working conditions in these areas, says Karin Astrid Siegmann, a researcher at Rotterdam’s Erasmus University and specialist in international employment law.

As the impact of the world market is increasingly being felt in rural areas, the status of many wage earners has become less safe, Siegmann explained that at the opening ceremony of the International Centre for Development and Decent Work (ICDD) at Kassel University. The ICDD will cooperate with partner institutions in India, Brazil, Kenya, South Africa, Pakistan and Mexico on issues concerning decent working conditions. The ICDD will use the ILO’s core labour standards as its point of reference.

Christoph Scherrer of the ICDD points out that social, environmental, technical, medical and economical factors interlock, making an interdisciplinary approach to assessing decent work necessary. At the ICDD, social and agricultural scientists will work together with a focus on the issues of how to achieve humane labour conditions, how to create value in the countryside and to give masses of workers a voice in the global job market. Germany’s Federal Government is assisting the new research centre financially in the context of its excellency initiative to boost academic work.

Apart from Kassel University, four other German universities were awarded an annual sum of € 1 million over five years. Applicants were invited to propose research programmes related to the UN Millennium Development Goals. Cologne’s University of Applied Sciences won support for its Centre for Natural Resources and Development. Munich University will get money for a programme on international health. Braunschweig’s Technology University will be enabled to boost water-management studies with a focus on developing countries and Hohenheim University in Stuttgart will expand its expertise concerning food security. (cir)