Studies in Comparative International Development

, Volume 47, Issue 3, pp 287–315 | Cite as

Global Production Networks, Chronic Poverty and ‘Slave Labour’ in Brazil

  • Nicola PhillipsEmail author
  • Leonardo Sakamoto


For large parts of the world's poor labour force, participation in global production networks (GPNs) is associated not with poverty reduction and ‘social upgrading’, but with highly precarious, unprotected and exploitative forms of work and employment, resulting in a perpetuation, rather than alleviation, of chronic poverty. In this article, we seek to understand these dynamics of ‘adverse incorporation’ in the context of Brazilian agriculture, focusing on the extreme ends of the spectrum of exploitation associated with what, in Brazil, is usually termed ‘slave labour’. We explore two questions which reveal the circular character of adverse incorporation. First, to what extent, in what ways and under what circumstances does chronic poverty foster patterns of precarious and exploitative employment within GPNs for poor workers? Second, to what extent, in what ways and under what circumstances can the workings of GPNs, and the terms on which poorer workers are incorporated into them, be said to produce and reproduce chronic poverty?


Brazil ‘Slave labour’ Poverty Adverse incorporation Global production networks Agriculture 



The authors gratefully acknowledge research funding from the Chronic Poverty Research Centre (CPRC) for the project on ‘Vulnerable Workers in Global Production Networks’, led by Nicola Phillips, from which this paper emerged. It draws on an original research report co-authored by Sakamoto with Maurício Hashizume, of Repórter Brasil, and Xavier Plassat, of the Pastoral Land Commission (CPT). Gabriel Alberto Trevizan and Julierme Zero Lima Barboza produced the maps, and additional data research was provided by Carlos Juliano Barros, Maurício Monteiro Filho and Rodrigo Rocha. We are grateful for the valuable participation of all these collaborators. We also appreciate exacting and helpful comments on early drafts of this paper from Stephanie Barrientos, Lucy Ferguson, Sam Hickey, Andrew Shepherd and Japhy Wilson; useful reactions from delegates at the CPRC's conference in September 2010; and the insightful and generous comments of two anonymous referees for this journal. Naturally, responsibility for the content of the paper and its arguments is entirely ours.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of ManchesterManchesterUK
  2. 2.Repórter BrasilSão PauloBrazil

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