Alternative Work Organizations

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Free Preview. Buy eBook. Buy Hardcover. Buy Softcover. FAQ Policy. But we are not done yet, and we need your help. Learn More. Streets are for people. We can reclaim our streets. Latest News. September 27th, Your Weekend Forecast. Most peo- ple This can be a helpful metric of the main function of SHGs in Nairobi: informal workers try to maximize the risk insurance and credit provision functions of SHGs by multiplying the memberships to different SHGs. It is possible to understand the fragmentation of labour that work- ers usually experience by observing a week in the life of Lucy Nduku, a member of the Noonkopir Market Women Group a SHG from the Athi River area.

Lucy works full-time in a hairdressing kiosk that she opened with her cousin Martha Wayua.

Alternative Work Organizations

The kiosk is open seven days per week, except on Sunday morning. She usually works from 7 a. The members buy the semi-raw sisal20 from farmers in Ukambani21 then transport it — usually on a matatu roof — and work together in a rented iron sheet room to make baskets and other con- tainers. Once a month, Lucy spends a whole day with another SHG member to fulfil their turn of marketing the production in Nairobi. With this money, Lucy was able to expand her business, starting the sale of cos- metics in the hairdressing kiosk. Her cousin Martha is also a member of two other SHGs.

In this way, they secure the weekly income of the shop without the need of a bank and assure a small credit every two weeks. This example clearly shows that productive activities taking place within the SHG have, firstly, the aim of creating a small income to increase the size of a merry-go-round fund. Secondly, producing and trading goods increases the mutual trust among the members, allow- ing them to better cooperate at mutual lending. Production according to a different model, which might actually reduce the exploitation, is rather a background goal, since people are usually too busy struggling for their basic needs to experiment with new business models.

When mem- bers produce together tools are usually shared, as is the space for work, and the marketing and strategic activities are undertaken as a common enterprise.

Alternative Work Organizations | M. Atzeni | Palgrave Macmillan

Last but not least, members share the entrepreneurial risk, despite socio-economic cleavages often in place, by member- ship fees and extraordinary Harambee — undertaken to start-up new activities. Nairobi is a hyper-individualistic labour market. People are pushed to compete against each other for tiny margins and the development of a collective attitude is usually very complicated.

Each individual relies on others to survive, through family ties and other social connections such as SHGs, but economic competition inhibits the development of cooperative models of pro- duction, where workers share — on a full-time basis — the experience of labour. Nevertheless, the processes of wealth distribution and risk sharing operated by the groups surveyed confirmed the central role that SHGs play in the urban environment.

Thus, SHGs might represent a sort of socio-economic laboratory to understand how work will evolve in a hyper-competitive and fragmented environment such as the informal settlements of Nairobi. Conclusions Nairobi is a global city that appears completely integrated in the global economy for tourists travelling from the airport to the Hilton before departing for a safari in the Masai Mara.

In this context, informal workers struggle to survive, aggregating in groups and associations — so-called SHGs. Rather, it is a clear class cleavage that cuts the whole society, both on the economic and political side. The state continues to exercise its power in two different ways. And as only one actor — often not the most powerful — among several competitors seeking to maximize the grab of resources in the slums and in remote rural areas.


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Against this background SHGs are, above all, a rational aggregation strategy to cover first survival needs. With regards to the possibility of SHGs representing alternative instances of work organizations, I have found at least three areas of criticism. Firstly, SHGs rarely provide the entire income for their members, thus they remain additional entities in the economic lives of their members. Secondly, for all the cases surveyed, despite the fact that the sense of belonging and mutual trust appears extremely high, SHGs rarely rep- resent real forms of mutual cooperatives with a complete sharing of production means, risks and profits.

This is probably due to the deep cultural crisis that has taken place in Nairobi. Lastly, my perception is that SHGs are always at high risk of exploitation within consensus dynamics by politicians and wealthy individuals. The result is a process of violence privatization, easy to start up through the basic services pro- vided by SHGs, in an environment where unemployment is estimated to reach a rate as high as 46 per cent for the age-cohort of 15—24 years WB, During my analysis, I found at least 6 SHGs that were seriously suspected to be linked with organized crime and gangs.

In summary, I found that the potentialities of strong SHGs are lim- ited by political, cultural and economic factors. If political exploitation and cultural crisis are rather self-evident, the economic structure might be harder to understand.

Low-income workers have limited means to find alternative ways of production, since the capitalist relations produce and reproduce by themselves — reducing any space for exper- imenting and developing new models. Informal workers persist with micro-capitalistic attempts at accumulation — aggregating through SHGs to cover their welfare needs — without exploring the possibility of evolv- ing the same groups into more structured enterprises. At the same time, SHGs appear to be the rational choice to maximize the opportunities to raise funds from international agencies and NGOs.

Finding ways of sharing the scarce resources remains the unique solu- tion for survival. SHGs undoubtedly represent the rational solution to generate the few shillings that enable people to feed their children and to support their education. Despite probably not fully exploring their potential alternative dimensions — especially in terms of claims to polit- ical and labour rights — SHGs are already able to help slum dwellers in Nairobi in their daily battle against high food prices, lack of rights and insecurity.

Without any doubt, they represent part of an alternative system that is going to arise in Africa. SHGs might represent the first cells of an alternative model that, taking inspiration from Latin American experiences, allows small pro- ducers to ally against bigger competitors, creating situations of pricing stability and balancing the harsh competition that currently forces peo- ple to suffer severe labour exploitation.

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The degree and the modalities of the transformation are impossible to foresee. Probably the recently approved new Constitution will not change any part of the exploitation mechanism in Kenya; probably workers will remain fragmented for a long time. In that case, workers would have a widespread net- work to defend and negotiate their rights and to demand a better share of production means first of all land and water , thus experiencing a marked decrease of labour exploitation. Notes 1. As declared on every document produced by the newly christened National Planning and Vision Ministry.

Maize white flour, the base of Kenyan diet. A sort of cheap spinach. Matatu are the omnipresent seat Japanese minibuses, Makanga are the rowdy matatu conductors. The term, over the course of the s, came to be used to refer to the artisans who were working in the open air, because of the absence of premises. Gradually, it was extended to refer to any kind of self-employment, becoming — despite its inadequacy — the Kenyan term for informal labour King, Informal economy is estimated to generate 9 new jobs out of 10 created in the country KNBS, 2. This does not imply that they were born there, but surely means that they have con- tacts with relatives and that they plan to bury their dead there Floris, 91— This fact might appear insignificant, but it represents a constant incentive to join savings groups as unique sources of credit to cover high funeral expenses.

Two of the biggest informal settlements in Nairobi. For example, see the Lewis two-sector development model Lewis, ILO The open unemployment rate is 8.

Alternative organizations in a global context: Tensions, challenges and potentialities

Unemployment particularly affects youths, the least educated and women. The daily oral contract traditionally in place only in informal enterprises or house-building. The second-hand clothing coming from Europe and North America.

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It is extremely interesting to observe how almost every meeting in Kenya — from a political rally to a birthday party, from a funeral dinner to the inauguration of a secondary school — seems to be organized on behalf of Harambee fund-raising, even when it is evidently useless Munene, Typical baskets of the Kamba culture. A natural fibre derived from Agave sisalana. An agricultural region south-east of Nairobi, homeplace of the Kamba people. References Anyamba, T. Barkan, J. Beneria and N. Berner, E.