Petra Mahy (presenter), Richard Mitchell, Martina Boese, John Howe and Maria Azzurra Tranfaglia

This paper presents the comparative results of a series of interviews with restaurant workers in Yogyakarta, Indonesia and Melbourne, Australia conducted in 2013–2014. Taking a regulation approach, the paper examines the ways in which formal labour laws interact with informal norms and institutions to regulate work arrangements in the two cities. Interviewees were asked a range of semi-structured questions covering the full scope of work arrangements including recruitment, contracts and agreements, work conditions, discipline, social security, ending the work arrangement, knowledge of labour law, and personal attitudes towards work. From this material, the laws and norms actually regulating working conditions were inferred. Despite these two cities having very different political, economic and social contexts, the research results indicate some unexpected similarities in both the content of informal forms of regulation and in the ways that formal and informal regulation interact to determine work arrangements. The paper will conclude with a reflection on the policy implications of this comparative analysis for efforts to shift more workers under the umbrella of formal labour law.


Dr Petra Mahy is a lecturer in law at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, and also an Associate Fellow in the Centre for Socio-Legal Studies, University of Oxford. At SOAS, Petra teaches on a variety of subjects including Legal Systems of Asia and Africa, Foundations of Comparative Law, Law and Society in Southeast Asia, and International and Comparative Corporations Law. Her current research interests involve the comparative evolution of labour law and company law in Southeast Asia, and the importance of understanding informal or non-state regulation in relation to worker and consumer protection.