Globalization and Labor Conditions: Working Conditions and Worker Rights in a Global Economy

Book cover for Globalization and Labor Conditions

Globalization and Labor Conditions: Working Conditions and Worker Rights in a Global Economy

Oxford University Press, 2006

This book explains the effects of three key mechanisms of globalization international trade, international migration, and the activities of multinational companies on working conditions and labor rights around the world. Drawing on analyses of a database on international labor conditions assembled for this project and a growing research literature on globalization and labor conditions, the book reveals how conditions have changed during the late 20th century globalization, and presents and evaluates evidence on links between globalization mechanisms and labor conditions. The book presents and evaluates evidence on how economic growth, international trade, migration and multinational companies influence labor conditions. The analysis and evidence indicate that countries that are open to international trade have superior labor conditions. Moreover, foreign direct investment mainly flows to countries with superior labor conditions, and wages and working conditions in multinational companies are superior to employment conditions in host-country firms.

The book also reviews the historical effects of international migration on wages (and other working conditions) and discusses the role of modern barriers to international migration. The evidence indicates that each of the mechanisms of globalization is associated with the improvements in working conditions predicted by international trade theory and with improvements in labor rights. In contrast, the evidence does not support the view that increasing economic integration initiates an international race to the bottom that produces sweatshop labor conditions. The book also discusses alternative policies for improving world labor conditions further, including national and international labor standards regulation. The evidence indicates that in contrast with trade, migration, and international capital flows, labor standards regulation has had a negligible role in advancing labor conditions. As an alternative, several policies that create opportunities for targeted worker groups show promise for supplementing the positive effects of globalization on labor conditions.

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