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Flying under the radar: The impact of plantation workers job insecurity on perceived labour agency


  • Gansemans, A.
  • D'Haese, M.


The expansion of export horticulture in the South has generated new employment opportunities in many rural areas. However, commercial pressures have contributed to the increased use of flexible labour in export horticulture hereby reducing worker s job security. This paper seeks to understand the influence of job insecurity on perceived labour agency in the case of pineapple workers in Costa Rica, a context dominated by migrant labour and weak unionisation. Survey data was collected among 385 pineapple plantation workers in 2016. The results of the multinomial probit models indicated that job insecurity, by using both an objective and subjective proxy, reduced the likelihood of engaging in forthright actions (such as protests, voicing concerns or joining a union), while it increased the likelihood of evasive (such as leaving the job) or repressed actions (such as doing nothing). The analysis complements previous evidence of a preservation mechanism, which means that job insecure workers avoid the risk of losing their job by flying under the radar (preferring evasive and repressed actions to forthright actions). This reflects the constrained voice of job insecure workers and has implications for unions, employers and policymakers who play a role in shaping the potential for labour agency. Acknowledgement : This study was funded by a Special Research Grant of Ghent University. We highly appreciated the willingness of pineapple workers, unions, managers, government officials and other stakeholders to participate in the study. Special thanks go to the local enumerators of Universidad de Costa Rica who helped conducting the surveys and Centro de Estudios para el Desarrollo Rural who facilitated the logistic organisation of the fieldwork. The support and suggestions of Deborah Martens, Eline D'Haene, Jan Orbie and Katharina Krumbiegel were invaluable for this article.

Suggested Citation

  • Gansemans, A. & D'Haese, M., 2018. "Flying under the radar: The impact of plantation workers job insecurity on perceived labour agency," 2018 Conference, July 28-August 2, 2018, Vancouver, British Columbia 277742, International Association of Agricultural Economists.
  • Handle: RePEc:ags:iaae18:277742

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Pamela Robinson, 2010. "Responsible Retailing: The Practice of CSR in Banana Plantations in Costa Rica," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 91(2), pages 279-289, February.
    2. Goedele Van den Broeck & Kaat Van Hoyweghen & Miet Maertens, 2016. "Employment Conditions in the Senegalese Horticultural Export Industry: A Worker Perspective," Development Policy Review, Overseas Development Institute, vol. 34(2), pages 301-319, March.
    3. Dennis Arnold, 2013. "Workers’ agency and re-working power relations in Cambodia’s garment industry," Global Development Institute Working Paper Series ctg-2013-24, GDI, The University of Manchester.
    4. Lone Riisgaard & Nikolaus Hammer, 2011. "Prospects for Labour in Global Value Chains: Labour Standards in the Cut Flower and Banana Industries," British Journal of Industrial Relations, London School of Economics, vol. 49(1), pages 168-190, March.
    5. Vagneron, Isabelle & Faure, Guy & Loeillet, Denis, 2009. "Is there a pilot in the chain? Identifying the key drivers of change in the fresh pineapple sector," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 34(5), pages 437-446, October.
    6. Ehlert, Christoph R. & Mithöfer, Dagmar & Waibel, Hermann, 2014. "Worker welfare on Kenyan export vegetable farms," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 46(C), pages 66-73.
    7. Schuster, Monica & Maertens, Miet, 2015. "Worker Empowerment through Labor Standards. Evidence from the Peruvian Horticultural Export Sector," Working Papers 208142, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Centre for Agricultural and Food Economics.
    8. Niklas Egels-Zandén & Jeroen Merk, 2014. "Private Regulation and Trade Union Rights: Why Codes of Conduct Have Limited Impact on Trade Union Rights," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 123(3), pages 461-473, September.
    9. repec:bla:devchg:v:48:y:2017:i:4:p:721-745 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. Riisgaard, Lone, 2009. "Global Value Chains, Labor Organization and Private Social Standards: Lessons from East African Cut Flower Industries," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 37(2), pages 326-340, February.
    11. Stephanie Barrientos & Andrienetta Kritzinger, 2004. "Squaring the circle: global production and the informalization of work in South African fruit exports," Journal of International Development, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 16(1), pages 81-92.
    12. Magnus Sverke & Johnny Hellgren, 2001. "Exit, Voice and Loyalty Reactions to Job Insecurity in Sweden: Do Unionized and Non-unionized Employees Differ?," British Journal of Industrial Relations, London School of Economics, vol. 39(2), pages 167-182, June.
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