ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Meaning of Labour and the Pandemic

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The context of the COVID-19 pandemic seems to have forced some to introduce further flexibility in work, which for the past decade has come to be known as multitasking, to be performed in a virtual workplace, and now working from home. It is needless to mention that the outbreak of the pandemic has led to a change in the conception of the workplace, locating work at home. The flexibility in location, however, is contingent upon the radical change in the nature of labour. The shift in the form of labour, it could be argued, has been “facilitated” particularly during the post-industrial economy, which seems to rely on what is characterised as immaterial labour. Work from home is part of the flexibility that underlies the process of labour extraction. The extraction of labour happens through the separation of workers from the workplace to work from home.

One of the editorials in this issue of EPW succinctly brings out the pros and cons that are involved in the proposal for work from home. Such a proposal, in addition to the problems outlined in the editorial, also brings along with it new hierarchies in the organisation of the labour force. However, this proposal is replete with new hierarchies in the very conception of labour. The most obvious of these is the hierarchy between physical or material labour done from outside the home and the intellectual or symbolic labour which could be done from home. Material labour by and large, has to be performed at the work site whether it is in agricultural fields or industry or at construction sites.

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Updated On : 16th Jan, 2021

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