Coping with Insecurity: Labour Relations, (Im)mobility and Conflict-sensitive Employment in Afghanistan

  • Elke Grawert (Author)


Forced migration studies and research related to the “new wars” paradigm have drawn attention to the modes of operation of war economies and the coercive labour relations involved. Field research findings by the author and an Afghan team in 2015–2017 on employment by local construction companies revealed that remnants of the war economy have persisted in Afghanistan’s fragile and violence-affected settings and continue to shape labour relations. To avoid acts of sabotage and fulfil construction contracts, relationships with local powerholders – politicians holding offices in government or Taliban leaders – are crucial for mobile Afghan companies operating on construction sites for limited periods. The research findings indicate that these relationships provide a field of interaction and negotiations about conflict-sensitive employment between company managers and local elders representing community interests – and through them, local powerholders. The involvement of elders affects the labour relations between company managers and local workers, both mobile and immobile.


Afghanistan, conflict-sensitive employment, labour relations, infrastructure, mobility, immobility, construction companies