Nearly 200 million people across the world are unemployed. Even among those who do have a job, 1.4 billion people work under poor conditions. This raises the question of whether the current economic system, based on the liberal idea of competition among human beings on the labour market, really is able to guarantee the human right to work and, at the same time, a human right to fair working conditions. The project provides a new perspective. It attempts to understand how to reduce the need to work and create a right to freedom from work as a possible solution to the problems linked to employment from a post-liberal point of view. The project is funded by the SNF Ambizione grant 179971.

From Core Labour Standards to Freedom from Work

Can we continue to consume, produce and grow to provide enough work? So far, socialist and capitalist strategies have looked at providing enough work, targeting full employment under the right to work. Is this strategy sustainable in the global economy? This research discusses current shortcomings of existing labour strategies in the global economy and designs an alternative one consisting in expanding ‘freedom from work’. It looks at how to reduce the need to work out of economic necessity and how labour rights should be designed to contribute to this goal.

In this regard, it outlines traditional attempts to reduce the working week and to introduce a basic income and discusses whether they are feasible in the global economy. It shows that in order to expand freedom from work in a global economy, it is necessary to think beyond productivity and redistributive mechanisms and rethink the meaning and usefulness of ‘productive labour’. Ultimately, the goal of this research project is to design a new economic model, called human economy, based on the idea that most people on the planet must work to have certain capabilities and choices. If these capabilities were created more efficiently, most people on the planet would therefore need to work less to achieve them. In short, this framework rethinks the value of work and, consequently, the need to work for economic reasons.


  • Bueno Nicolas, Freedom ‘at’, ‘through‘ and ‘from’ Work : Rethinking Labour Rights, 160 (2) International Labour Review (2021) 311-329. DOI:  
  • Bueno Nicolas, Liberté au travail, par le travail et face au travail: comment repenser les droits du travail, 160 (2) Revue internationale du Travail (2021) 339-360. DOI :   
  • Bueno Nicolas, Libertad en el trabajo, a través del trabajo y frente al trabajo. Un replanteamiento de los derechos laborales 140(2) Revista internacional del trabajo (2021) 335-355. DOI  
  • Bueno Nicolas, From Productive Work to Capability-Enhancing Work: Implications for Labour Law and Policy, Journal of Human Development and Capabilities (2021). DOI:

Dauer des Projekts

01.12.2018 - 20.11.2022


Prof. Dr. Nicolas Bueno Assistant Professor


Swiss National Science Foundation, Ambizione


Zurich University, Kompetenzzentrum Menschenrechte Universität Zürich