» Archive for: February, 2014

imagesStudy support on the workfloor: an innovative approach to combining learning and working or a new novel strategy to expand market shares.

Since the summer of 2013, the Dutch supermarket chain Albert Heijn has regularly featured in Dutch national news for the apparently novel introduction of study support for its largely young and school-going work workforce (see HERE, HERE and HERE).

What’s happening here? Since September 2013 some Amsterdam based supermarkets have been offering free study support to their young school-going workers. The support is offered by university students (not trained teachers) on the workfloor (before and/or after work), and to this end a computer and WIFI have been made available to the young workers.

In line with Dutch labour regulations, Albert Heijn, like other Dutch retailers, employs teenagers starting from 15 years of age. Dutch minimum wages are age-based; the younger the worker the lower the minimum age till the age of 23 is reached. Young workers are further attractive for the flexible nature that characterises the comtemporary organisation of labour in the Dutch retail sector.

According to acclaimed supermarket expert Gerard Rutte, the introduction of study support to the workfloor might have less to do with a concern on part of Albert Heijn with the study performance of their young workers, and more with expanding the market share in the highly competitive Dutch retail sector. By offering study support, Albert Heijn hopes to increase the loyalty among its young workers as well as its quality. Albert Heijn thus expands the boundaries of competitiveness beyond the branding and pricing of its products to include the service quality of its young workforce.

Whether this will positively affect Albert Heijn’s market share will be hard to tell. At any rate however, this novel strategy generated some free, nationwide publicity for the supermarket chain (and yes, this blog posting contributes to this too…)

posted by Roy Huijsmans


Children & Youth Studies students from the Social Policy for Development and Social Justice Perspectives majors took a study visit to the Hague Conference on Private International Law on Friday, 7 February. The Hague Conference is the oldest international organization in The Hague (established in 1893), and the only one with a legislative function, which is to work toward the “progressive unification of the rules of private international law”. This means creating and enforcing conventions that address legal problems arising between individuals and companies in situations that concern more than one State.

hcchStudents were particularly interested in their conventions concerning child protection. These are:

• 1980 Child Abduction Convention

• 1993 Intercountry Adoption Convention

• 1996 Child Protection Convention

• 2007 Child Support Convention and Protocol

Hague Conference legal officers generously gave of their time to discuss the contents, promulgation, and implementation processes of these international treaties, most of which draw their mandate from the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. They discussed the challenges of universal implementation with ISS students, noting in particular their efforts to bring more African states on board. Currently, only 5 African countries are member states.

Irene Nyamu, a Social Policy for Development student from Kenya, said, “The visit to Hague Conference was a great eye opener for me as a child rights and protection activist… I gained a perspective on the value the Hague Conference has on overall social policy.

Kenya [has] ratified the 1993 Convention on Intercountry Adoption… I now fully understand what this means, how it is connected to the UNCRC, and the fact that inter-country adoption is much more regulated in Kenya.”

The Hague Conference regularly holds Special Commissions for each Convention. For example, the next Special Commission of the 1993 Intercountry Adoption Convention is scheduled for 2015. The Hague Conference is also working on a report based on survey information gathered from member States in regards to international surrogacy arrangements. Based on that report, member States will determine whether to promulgate a new Convention on international surrogacy.

To help inform both processes, ISS will be hosting an invitational international forum on intercountry adoption and global surrogacy to bring together experts – scholars, policymakers, and activists – from around the world. The forum, to be held in August, will produce reports of the proceedings that may then be used by the Hague Conference to strengthen implementation of their conventions on adoption and surrogacy.

Posted by Kristen Cheney


Photo credits: Yenutien Kombian

Participatory tools: the right way of constructing knowledge

While the theoretical framework for creating and disseminating knowledge through active multi-directional process of collaboration is very advanced, in practice, very few educational institutions can apply those concepts in their modus operandi. Most part of the institutions still maintain the mono-direction process of teaching-learning creating a gap between personal experiences in the real life and educational experiences in the closed environment of the educational institution.

However, in the International Institute of Social Studies, I had the amazing opportunity to participate in a truly modern, collaborative, multidirectional process of learning. The role-play game about child labour and international regulations of the ILO, part of MA course 4235 – Young People and Work: Theory, Practice and Policy, has given us the opportunity to really go deep in the theme. The participatory atmosphere has fostered extra research, real teamwork and many informal debates outside of the class.

The role-play was scripted on an actual event: the ILO Global Child Labour Conference that took place in The Hague in 2010. I was assigned the representative of the United States government. This means that I had to go in favour of Convention ILO 182 and against Convention ILO 138, because the US has signed the former, but not the latter. In order to better construct an understanding of the US position, I searched for speeches, quotes and texts related to the US participation in the International arena. Mrs. Hillary Clinton’s speech in the end of ILO 2010 Conference gave me the direction to follow.

My preparatory work made me realize that the US doesn’t see child work as a problem by itself. They clearly distinguish between child labour and child work. While the first one is seen as damaging children’s development the second one is considered fostering this development given them extra abilities. So far, my role seemed to develop confortably. Yet, things complicated when one of my peers in the role of the representative of ILO raised over email the issue of children’s work in the American agriculture. With just one day left till the final role-play I was forced to prepare a convincing response and well past midnight I started to search everything that I could about child labour in the American agriculture.

This research showed that the Gaps in the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) were notorious, mainly because the federal government didn’t regulated it, leaving it to the states. The consequences were very different laws and a big fragility to the protection of children. As representative of the US, I could not acknowledge this reality yet I had to give an answer to the questioning of the ILO representative. Therefore I decided to attack the epistemology of the video used to present the claim of child labour in US farms. At 4:00am, I submitted the US answer to the problem of children labour in American agriculture.

Another important part of the strategy that I developed was the World Bank report about child labour. This was important, because ILO clearly was defending the elimination of all forms of child work based in ILO Convention 138. This position was against the interests of the US Government. The report of the World Bank gave me the opportunity to oppose ILO position to the position of another International Organization putting the US Government in a more confortable situation.

In conclusion, the experience with the role-play game was great; the consolidation of knowledge is evident. Moreover, Professors Roy Huijsmans and Karin Siegmann were able to make us develop the knowledge in a much more constructive way. The evident success of the methodology makes me think that it should be used more often and expanded to other courses and other institutions.

guest-contribution by Paulo Guerra (participant in the ISS MA programme 2013-14)

International Institute of Social Studies

ISS is an international graduate school of policy-oriented critical social science. It brings together students and teachers from the Global South and the North in a European environment.