Monishankar Prasad’s Year in Reflection

In our latest Year in Reflection, we posed the questions to Monishankar Prasad, an independent labour researcher.

In 2022, what is one case of workers’ struggle in Asia that you would like to highlight?

That would be the struggle of the platform riders who would switch off using the tactic of the ‘weapon of the weak’ to resist the tech companies. Creative ways to resist tech companies or platform operators have been seen seen in all parts of the world.

Platform workers in Telangana in India managed to unionize, and that for me is the highlight of the year and a radical moment that gives us hope. There were unprecedented protests by Deliveroo riders in Dubai, which I feel is quite seminal.

What is one labor issue that is not given enough attention?

There is nothing digital about the labor. It is hard labor itself.

And, while platform workers in Singapore were able to form an association to express their opinions, it is only for Singaporeans or permanent residents. Migrant workers are excluded.

What is one book you have read this year that stuck with you?

Natasha Iskandar’s book on migrant labor in Qatar Does Skill Make Us Human stands out. It shows how the racial politics of labor intersects with skills to form a hierarchy where skill is used as a bargaining chip to make us human. A highlight in the book is the anecdotes of protest by the workers.

What should we be paying attention in 2023?

I would like to pay attention to platform workers’ resistance, and labour reforms in Qatar after the World Cup.