Labour agency in the cut flower industry in Ethiopia: should I stay or should I go?


lotte.jpgLotte Staelens (°1986, Kortrijk) obtained a bachelor degree in political sciences in 2007, a master degree in EU-studies (cum laude) in 2008, and a master degree in human nutrition and rural development (cum laude) in 2010, all at Ghent University. Since 2010, she has been working as an academic assistant at the Department of Agricultural Economics at Ghent University. Her main research interest is working conditions in global value chains. She has been involved in several research projects in Peru, South Africa and Ethiopia and enjoyed assisting master courses in the field of agricultural/ development economics. Lotte is (co)author of several scientific publications in peerreviewed journals and presented her results at various international conferences and seminars. In her spare time, she loves travelling and exploring new places, bouldering, clearing her head through running, cooking vegetarian dishes and reading fantasy books.

Abstract PhD

Globalization and global competition has led to a relocation of low technology, labour intensive industries towards countries where labour is cheaper. Past research has focused on the working conditions of workers employed in these industries. What is missing in this field of research is any inclusion of workers’
own perceptions about their working conditions; how workers themselves evaluate and seek to improve the quality of their working life. This thesis addresses this research gap. More specifically, it examines the potential of flower farm workers in Ethiopia to improve their own working conditions through two strategies: ‘exit’ and ‘voice’. The thesis is structured around three articles. Article 1 seeks to understand why Ethiopian flower farm workers massively quitted or ‘exited’ their formal wage work in the flower farms. Article 2 researches how flower farm managers made sense of these high levels of workers ‘exiting’ their farm and the type of strategies they developed to deal with this labour turnover. Finally, Article 3 examines why workers did not use their ‘voice’ to formulate their grievances and to improve their conditions of employment.


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