Work, Care & Labour in Pandemic Times

Call for articles and papers for the issue n°26 of Les Mondes du Travail ( Worlds of Work) (publication May 2021)

The Coronavirus pandemic represents a major social event, a “total social fact”. In less than a year, nearly 50 million people have been contaminated and more than 1.1 million have already died. People who are cured sometimes experience prolonged after-effects also called ‘Long Covid’. Most countries are facing a second wave that is stronger than the first. Some countries have managed to contain contaminations. There is no certainty about the development of an effective vaccine. It even seems that the situation could continue for some time, especially since other viruses, according to a recent UN report, could cross the species barrier, posing a structural health threat to human societies.

The Coronavirus pandemic is questioning as much the symbolic order of labour and work, the social relations and class hierarchies as well as the place and purposes of productive and reproductive work. The dossier of our next issue has for objective to gather analyses which make it possible to measure its impact, at the level of productive and reproductive work, as at the level of managerial and institutional practices, or relating to the representations and experience of the people. International and comparative contributions are particularly appreciated in order to understand the singularities and recurrences of what we are currently experiencing.

A wide variety of questions have emerged during this crisis, which is far from over. We mention them for your information.

  • Sars-Cov-2, also called Covid-19, is a new pathogen, resulting from a zoonosis and whose propagation is by aerosols, surface and micro-droplets. What do we know about the role of workplaces in its spread? How did the actors of the company take up the sanitary stake? How can we interpret labor disputes over health measures to contain and restrict its spread, both in the public and private sectors, the administration or even companies in the competitive sector?
  • During the first wave of contaminations, the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic provoked variable responses according to the countries, as much in terms of modes of containment as in terms of identification of ‘essential’ activities. In some countries, a list of these activities has been established while in others, the ‘essential’ scope of activities has never been defined. A number of companies, especially in industry, have been shut down, sometimes after mobilization and strike actions. What action was taken by the public authorities and what role did social actors play? How and when, following health decisions or collective action, did companies stop operating?
  • What role did the labor inspection services play in the application of health protocols? To what extent have social actors engaged, jointly or not, their organizations in the application of preventive or health monitoring measures?
  • How was the period of temporary economic unemployment experienced by those concerned? How were ‘essential’ workers such as garbage collectors, delivery drivers, commercial employees, care personnel (nurses and doctors, care assistants, elderly home care staff, …), agricultural and food distribution workers mobilized and how did they experience this period? How did the less protected categories or those without any social protection (informal sector, sex work, drug dealers, seasonal workers, construction workers, etc.) cope with the difficulties encountered?
  • Many workers gained visibility through this ‘essential’ role they play regarding the functioning of society. How is this a sign of a difference in social recognition given to certain activities and thus to social groups?
  • From the first period of confinement, the majority of white-collar workers had to continue their activity in telework. How was this forced telework experienced in a context of school closures (type of time availability for example)? How is the monitoring of telework carried out? How have technologies been mobilized in this direction? What extension since this first period? Is the development of telework now a negotiated reality? More broadly, how does telework affect consent to work in times of pandemic?
  • The teaching world has found itself faced with the injunction to ensure pedagogical continuity via ‘distance’ and e-laerning courses. How has this obligation been experienced by teachers and pupils or students; with what effects and pedagogical effectiveness?
  • How did the social actors (employee and employer unions) position themselves with regard to the public management of the health crisis? What forms have collective and union mobilizations taken (blockades, survey on working conditions, digital mobilizations, etc.)?
  • What are the forms of solidarity and mutual aid that have emerged, at the level of municipalities or neighborhoods, and how do they fit into the medium and long term?
  • Confinement was also a harsh experience for many. And sometimes even a “double confinement” (prisons). How was this experienced from an intersectional perspective including gender, generation, racialization and class?
  • What is to become of work in the next world? The pandemic has caused a brutal shock in consciousness and representations, while a series of calls and forums have been issued to think and already engage “the next world”. What axes of demand can be identified with what levers of action?
  • Historical insights allow for a better understanding of the present. What lessons can be learned from previous pandemics, both in terms of public governance and the impact on work and living conditions?
  • The pandemic has changed the game while leaving things in place. Should we expect a shock strategy with a new wave of measures to make work and employment more flexible, but also the development of major reforms? If it is still too early to draw conclusions from an unusual crisis, it is not useless to integrate societal and ideological dimensions into the reflection on “work in times of pandemic”, by making our hypothesis that the Covid-19 pandemic is an integral part of the ecological crisis.

Scientific coordination of the dossier: Rachid Bouchareb (CRESPA GTM – Paris 8), Nicola Cianferoni (University of Geneva), Marc Loriol (IDHES).

Paper format: maximum size 40,000 characters including spaces and footnotes. The Editorial Board accept contributions written in English, and Spanish.

Files should be sent to:

Schedule: Deadline for receipt of contributions : January 31, 2021 – evaluations February 2021 – returns and shuttle March 2021 – completion March 30, 2021 – release April 30, 2021.