Skip to main content
The social consequences of control: Accounitng for indentured labour in Fiji
Qualitative Research in Accounting and Management (2016)
  • Umesh Sharma
  • Helen J. Irvine

Purpose:  This is a study of the social consequences of accounting controls over labour. It examines the system of tasking used to control Indian indentured workers in the historical context of Fijian sugar plantations during the British colonial period, from 1879 to 1920. 

Method/ Methodology: Archival data consisting of documents from the Colonial Secretary’s Office, reports and related literature on Indian indentured labour was accessed from the National Archives of Fiji. In addition, documented accounts of the experiences of indentured labourers over the period of the study give voice to the social costs of the indenture system, highlighting the social impact of accounting control systems.

Findings: Accounting and management controls were developed to extract surplus value from Indian labour. The practice of tasking was implemented in a plantation structure where indentured labourers were controlled hierarchically through a variety of calculative monitoring practices. This resulted in the exploitation and consequent economic, social and racial marginalisation of indentured workers.

Originality:  The paper contributes to the growing body of literature highlighting the social effects of accounting control systems. It exposes the social costs borne by indentured workers employed on Fijian sugar plantations.

Practice/ Research Implications: The study promotes better understanding of the practice and impact of accounting as a technology of government and control within a particular institutional setting, in this case the British colony of Fiji. By highlighting the social implications of these controls in their historical context, we alert corporations, government policy makers, accountants and workers to the socially damaging effects of exploitive management control systems.

  • governmentality,
  • tasking,
  • accounting control,
  • accounting for labour,
  • indentured workers,
  • sugar industry,
  • Fiji
Publication Date
June 22, 2016
Citation Information
Umesh Sharma and Helen J. Irvine. "The social consequences of control: Accounitng for indentured labour in Fiji" Qualitative Research in Accounting and Management Vol. 13 Iss. 2 (2016) p. 130 - 158
Available at: