A National Niche in a Transnational World: How Filipino Labor Dominates Global Shipping

Thursday, November 4, 2010
12:00pm to 1:30pm
119 Moses Hall (Harris Room)
Berkeley CA 94720

In what is arguably the most globalized industry and labor market in the world, merchant shipping, it is a curious fact that nearly one out of every three workers at sea are from a single country – the Philippines. Over 375,000 Filipinos ply the world's oceans as engine room oilers, deck hands, cabin cleaners and junior mates. Yet while they dominate the lower echelons of the crewing hierarchy, they have also been saddled with a reputation as "good followers" and experience limited upward mobility. The talk will trace the forces – both historical and contemporary - that have funneled Filipinos into the bowels of so many ships yet have also prevented them from advancing into their commanding heights. Particular attention will be paid to labor market intermediaries and the role of states, both imperial and post-colonial. The case of Filipino seafarers provides an opportunity to engage theories of segmented labor markets, racial formation, and labor market closure – all at the global scale.