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Register today! New MOOC on forced labour and slavery

- Wits University

This new free Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) is a collaboration between WitsX, edX and Beyond Trafficking and Slavery (a partnership with openDemocracy).

Titled: Forced and precarious labour in the global economy: Slavery by another name? this new course focuses on patterns of labour exploitation within the global economy. It should appeal to anyone interested in both better understanding and effectively challenging global patterns of exploitation, vulnerability, and abuse.

The free nine-week-course starting on 7 March 2018 is led by some of the world’s leading authorities in the field including Professor Joel Quirk, Head of the Department of Political Studies at Wits University.

It provides an introduction to the role of forced and precarious labour in the global economy. Building upon content from the widely acclaimed online platform Beyond Trafficking and Slavery, it explores how vulnerable workers – whose conditions are frequently compared to slavery – routinely endure precarious pay and conditions in order to generate goods and services further up the economic chain.

Drawing upon examples from across the world, the course specifically focuses on labour in three major categories of work:

  • Supply chain work
  • Migrant work
  • Sex work

Students will also consider the limitations of popular approaches focusing on the politics of rescue, the criminalisation of movement, and corporate social responsibility, and introduce alternatives based on models of worker rights, collective organising, and decent work.

The course demonstrates that forced and precarious labour cannot be reduced to the grit in the gears of an otherwise legitimate and smoothly functioning economic system. Taking effective action to address patterns of exploitation requires identifying and challenging systems of exploitation, rather than targeting ‘bad apple’ employers or deviant criminals.

The course instructors are:

  • Professor Joel Quirk, University of the Witwatersrand
  • Dr Elena Shih, Brown University
  • Dr Genevieve LeBaron, University of Sheffield
  • Dr Neil Howard, University of Antwerp
  • Dr Prabha Kotiswaran, King's College London
  • Dr Samuel Okyere, University of Nottingham
  • Further information

The course, Forced and precarious labour in the global economy: Slavery by another name?, will begin on the 9th of March 2018 and run for nine weeks. No prior knowledge or expertise is required. Registration is free, with a paid certificate option. No more than 3 - 4 hours per week is required. For further information and registration, go to

For more free online courses offered by WitsX, Wits University’s free online course platform on edX, visit

WitsX MOOC on forced labour and slavery. © WitsX on EdX

Collaborating organisations

Founded by Harvard University and MIT in 2012, edX is an online learning destination and MOOC provider, offering high-quality courses from the world’s best universities and institutions to learners everywhere. With more than 90 global partners, we are proud to count the world’s leading universities, non-profits, and institutions as our members. EdX university members top the QS World University Rankings® with our founders receiving the top honours, and edX partner institutions ranking highly on the full list.

Beyond Trafficking and Slavery is an editorial partnership with openDemocracy, a UK-based digital commons with an annual readership of over nine million. The primary of this partnership is to better understand and effectively challenge the political, economic, and social root causes of global exploitation, vulnerability and forced labour. Beyond Slavery combines the rigor of academic scholarship with the clarity of journalism and the immediacy of political activism.

The University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) is one of only two universities in Africa ranked in two separate international rankings as a leading institution in the world, and is the only university in South Africa featured in the top 1% in the world in seven defined fields of research. Wits receives he highest levels of external financial support of all universities in South Africa from donors and partners. It is home to 26 South African Research Chairs, seven research institutes, 30 research entities, and six Centres of Excellence. Another measure of research excellence is that Wits has more than 408 National Research Foundation rated scientists, of which 28 are regarded as world leaders.