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Labour Standards and the 'Race to the Bottom': Rethinking Globalization and Workers' Rights from Developmental and Solidaristic Perspectives

  • Ajit Singh

There is a protracted stalemate between rich (the North) and poor (the South) countries over the question of minimum labour standards in developing economies. This paper is a sequel to Singh and Zammit (2000). It considers afresh key issues in the controversy. While fully recognizing the moral, political, and philosophical dimensions of this complex issue, the paper concentrates on the central economic question of the 'race to the bottom'. It emphasizes the difficulties of establishing labour standards in the vast informal sectors in developing countries and suggests that the ILO conventions 87 and 98 should be amended to reflect properly these concerns. It also argues that ILO core conventions should be broadened to include the right to a decent living. The overall conclusion is that labour standards are important indicators of economic development, but their promotion is best achieved in a non-coercive and supportive international environment such as that provided by the ILO. Copyright 2004, Oxford University Press.

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Article provided by Oxford University Press in its journal Oxford Review of Economic Policy.

Volume (Year): 20 (2004)
Issue (Month): 1 (Spring)
Pages: 85-104

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Handle: RePEc:oup:oxford:v:20:y:2004:i:1:p:85-104
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://oxrep.oupjournals.org/

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  1. Drusilla K. Brown & Alan V. Deardorff & Robert M Stern, 2001. "Child Labor: Theory, Evidence, and Policy," Working Papers 474, Research Seminar in International Economics, University of Michigan.
  2. Timothy Besley & Robin Burgess, 2002. "Can labour regulation hinder economic performance? Evidence from India," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 3779, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  3. Kimberly Ann Elliott & Richard B. Freeman, 2003. "Can Labor Standards Improve under Globalization?," Peterson Institute Press: All Books, Peterson Institute for International Economics, number 338.
  4. Glyn, A. & Hughes, A. & Lipietz, A. & Singh, A., 1988. "The Rise And Fall Of The Golden Age," Cambridge Working Papers in Economics 884, Faculty of Economics, University of Cambridge.
  5. Blanchflower, D. & Slaughter, M., 1998. "The Causes and Consequences of Changing Income Inequality: W(h)ither the Debate?," Papers 27, Centre for Economic Performance & Institute of Economics.
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