Global Value Chain and a Green Eyewash: Locating Labour in the Electric Automotive Sector in India

Publication Type:

Conference Paper

Authors:

Raj, Ankur

Source:

Gerpisa colloquium, Brussels (2023)

Abstract:

Global Value Chain and a Green Eyewash: Locating Labour in the Electric Automotive Sector in India

The proposed paper will explore the complex relationship between global value chains, labour, and environmental impact in the context of the electric vehicle (EV) industry in India. The electric vehicle industry is poised to revolutionise the transportation sector, with the potential to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve air quality. However, the production of EVs relies on a complex global value chain that involves various actors across different countries in the neoliberal era. EVs have been endorsed as a sustainable alternative to traditional internal combustion engine vehicles, and the Indian government has set ambitious targets for the adoption of electric vehicles. However, the production of EV relies on a complex process that involves various actors across different countries, which have implications for labour and the environment. The paper also explores how the push for green vehicles lead to the pressure on non-renewable energy sources such as coal mines and thermal power plants outside the city and how the ones least responsible for the climate change are bearing the brunt of it. Using the Bernhardt and Milberg methodology, the paper examines the role of global value chains in shaping labour practices in the electric vehicle industry in India by mapping out the value chain, identifying the actors involved, and examining the power dynamics between them. It will be used to analyse the working conditions and labour standards of workers in different segments of the value chain, including extraction of raw materials, manufacturing, assembly, and distribution and will involve a comprehensive analysis of the employment practices and labour standards in each segment of the value chain to explore the multiple dimensions of economic and social upgrading or downgrading within the Indian electric automotive sector as a consequence of its deepening participation in these ‘chains’. In addition, this paper will use the life cycle assessment methodology to analyse the environmental impact of the EV production chains. Which includes the extraction of raw materials, production processes, and end-of-life disposal. The impact will be analysed in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, water use, and other environmental indicators. By combining these two methodologies, the paper aims to provide a comprehensive analysis of the social and environmental impact of the electric vehicle industry and how it’s being sold as a solution to climate change while majority of the countries still rely on fossil fuel based energy production for the electricity. The paper also examines the impact an internal combustion engine vehicle production has on environment in terms of greenhouse gas emission in comparison to EVs production. In terms of labour, the research found that workers in the manufacturing segment of the value chain often work in poor conditions with low wages and inadequate safety measures. Workers in the assembly and distribution segments of the value chain are often employed on a casual basis with little to no job security. In terms of the environment, with the increased demand for the production chains for EVs have a significant environmental footprint. The extraction of raw materials such as lithium, cobalt, and nickel have significant environmental and social impacts, including deforestation, soil degradation, displacement of indigenous communities and child labour. The production processes also contribute to this with greenhouse gas emissions being the most significant environmental impact. The research also found that end-of-life disposal of EVs is often inadequate, with many EVs ending up in landfill sites. The findings of this research suggest that there is a need for stronger labour standards and working conditions in the manufacturing segment of the value chain, as well as better employment practices in the assembly and distribution segments of the value chain. In addition, there is a need for more sustainable production processes and effective end-of-life disposal strategies for EVs with a more community driven approach.

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