Local Labour Markets and the Reconfiguration of the Sugar Industry in Northeast Brazil
This paper focuses on a set of debates surrounding the working of local labour markets in the depressed sugarcane sector of Pernambuco, which faces strong competition from the Centre-South of Brazil. Millowner, planter, labour and union perspectives on current problems in the sugar industry and their solution are reviewed, with particular reference to issues of low productivity, access to land and the potential for diversification out of sugar. Historical antagonisms between (white) landowner classes and (black) labour, and their reworking in recent years, complicated by competing economic rationalities between these groups, make progress towards viable, sustainable socioeconomic improvement difficult. Employer attempts at reconfiguration of the labour market by relocating sites of labour reproduction (thereby breaking old social attachments) while retaining control over labour at sites of production bring continued conflict with the unions.
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