International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

On the occasion of 21 March, PSI reaffirms its commitment to strengthening a decolonial, intersectional, and feminist approach to fighting racism, xenophobia, and all forms of intolerance in the world of work and public services.

Addressing the root causes of racism requires an understanding of the historical and contemporary relationship between capital, the construction of racial (and other) hierarchies, and capital’s imperative to control labour for profit and wealth accumulation.

In line with this, PSI proposes a way forward to decolonise labour regimes by understanding:

At the 68th session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, PSI, with the Global Unions and civil society allies, released a Road Map, which analyses the impacts of privatisation of care systems and services on impoverished womxn, reducing their opportunities, and in many developing countries driving them to migrate out of necessity, and not by choice. While in destination countries, the same trend of privatisation of care perpetuates a racialized and gendered oppression of womxn migrant health and care workers who find themselves in low-wage, dangerous and precarious jobs and living conditions.

With around 64 countries heading into elections this year, PSI strongly reminds governments of their obligation under international human rights law to fight racism, xenophobia and all forms of intolerance, in both policy and practice, and to push back against discriminatory actions and racist propaganda targeting vulnerable groups, such as refugees, migrants, and undocumented workers, for political gains.


On the occasion of International Human Rights Day, PSI is launching a new report which looks at tackling racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and other forms of intolerance in the context of workers’ and labour rights and access to universal quality public services for all.

Trailer: Decolonising labour regimes

Decolonising labour regimes - a short glossary

Click on the image to see the Instagram post
Click on the image to see the Instagram post

1. Racial capitalism

Modern forms of racism, discrimination, xenophobia, and intolerance have their roots in slavery, colonialism, and imperialism. These practices aim to promote the capitalist-imperialist project of the Global North by denying social, political, and economic rights based on race, class, caste, gender, sexuality, and geography. To tackle these issues, we need to understand the relationship between capital, the creation of racial hierarchies, and the control of labour for profit and wealth accumulation.

2. Coloniality of power

The term refers to the fact that even after colonialism, this Eurocentric model of power has endured and has sustained a global hierarchy of superior (European/white/Western) and inferior (the rest), which still structures relations between capitalism and labour, through a machinery of racial and gender discrimination. In this sense, decoloniality has been called a form of "epistemic disobedience", "epistemic de-linking”, and "epistemic reconstruction".

3. Decolonial epistemology

The etymology of the word epistemology is derived from the ancient Greek epistēmē, meaning "knowledge, understanding, skill, scientific knowledge", and the suffix -ology, meaning "the science or discipline of (what is indicated by the first element)”. Therefore, decolonial epistemology proposes a reflection on the Eurocentrism present in global scientific production, and other power structures.

4. The fallacies of a ‘post-racialism’ narrative

Post-racialism denounces racism but simultaneously creates a taboo about talking about, naming or describing racism in its new forms, as well as creating blind spots to its very real, structural roots in the capitalist/neoliberal political economy.

5. Why talking about labour regimes?

By referring to ‘labour regimes’ rather than ‘labour markets’, we want to emphasise the fact that the way labour markets and the world of work operate are the product of a set of rules, regulations and norms that are constantly evolving as a reflection of power dynamics. With globalisation, the coloniality of labour regimes is a feature of all regions and has deepened.

6. Racism and white supremacy in the international global economic governance

Poverty in the Global South, or that of Black, Indigenous and people of colour in the Global North, tends to be overwhelmingly attributed to deficiencies inherent in those particular groups, rather than a result of structural and historical discrimination. Despite the assertion of international social and economic rights norms and the emergence of new economic powerhouses in the Global South, the global division of labour remains both racialised and white supremacist.

Click on the image to see the Instagram post
Click on the image to see the Instagram post

7. Transnational labour regimes

As increasing numbers of workers worldwide find themselves having to migrate across borders to find work. The violation of the human rights of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers demonstrates firstly that the concept of the universality, indivisibility and inalienability of human rights is being weakened across racial lines. Neoliberal globalisation has opened up countries’ free movement of goods, services and capital, but this freedom has not extended to the movement of people where the goods and capital come from.

8. The global gendered division of labour

The prevailing inequitable gendered division of labour is frequently separated from its racist and colonial roots. It is not by accident - or by nature - that women perform the bulk of unpaid and underpaid reproductive work. Women’s unpaid reproductive labour - biological, physical, emotional, intellectual, cultural - has to date not been a part of macro-economic policy, even though this reproductive work (social reproduction) is crucial for the continued supply of a labour force for capitalism.

9. Islamophobia

The rising institutionalised Islamophobia in the Global North has led to it being called ‘the new anti-Semitism’ by virtue of its pernicious and normalised hatred against Muslims and against Islam. The ways in which gender and race intersect have also been brought into sharp relief through the targeting of Muslim women wearing the hijab and attempts to ban it in public spaces in Europe, and then in France the ‘burkini ban’ targeted at women wearing full-body swimsuits.

10. Caste oppression

Caste discrimination and oppression are different from racism since caste existed prior to imperial conquest. Caste is also different from class, as people may enjoy mobility from one class to another, but caste systems offer no such mobility. The precolonial roots of caste do not mean that caste systems have not been shaped and manipulated by imperialism, neoliberalism and neocolonialism in ways that exacerbate discrimination and exploitation as well as limit the opportunities for intervention by the state to eliminate discrimination.

11. Indigenous and Colonised Peoples

In North and Latin America and Oceania, indigenous peoples have endured a history of persecution and genocide. They continue to lose their territories through dispossession, natural resource extraction and destruction and access to their resources. Indigenous people’s attempts to assert their rights in the face of expanding extractivism have met with extreme violence.

12. Anti-Blackness

Racism affects people of all shades and hues. The process of racialisation often has nothing to do with skin colour. It is well documented that the invention of superiority and inferiority along skin colour was created to justify white supremacy and imperialism. Different groups suffer different types of racial stereotyping, but colonialism and imperialism set up hierarchies of colour between people, putting Black people at the bottom of the hierarchy and white people at the top with everyone in between according to their skin tone.

13. Decolonising labour regimes

Global coloniality and neocolonialism are realities that are shaping lives, economies and futures - a decolonial agenda for transformation is the only way to confront and change this disastrous course. It is impossible to fight capitalism and imperialism without understanding where they draw their power ‘to produce and reproduce’ from. Ending the myth of post-racialism - making coloniality visible - must be one of our first steps to continue building a decolonial movement.