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Rethinking International Labor Standards

In: Labor and the Globalization of Production


  • Michael Piore


Labor standards are moving to center stage in international trade policy, but the debate has been conducted largely within the framework of competitive economic theory. In that framework, working conditions are viewed as the outgrowth of an informed choice by workers and by firms. To make the labor standards of the advanced, industrial countries a condition for trade is at best the naïve imposition of the values of rich nations upon the poor in the developing world who can ill afford them. At worst, it is simply covert protectionism (Bhagwati, 2002). There is a certain abstract logic to this view, but it is not grounded in field experience. I have been looking at firms in Mexico over the last six years as they have tried to adjust, first to the opening of that economy to trade and then to NAFTA, and in Mexico at least these views seem completely out of touch with reality (Piore, Dussel-Peters and Ruiz-Duran, 1997; and Kuznetsov et al., 2001).

Suggested Citation

  • Michael Piore, 2004. "Rethinking International Labor Standards," Palgrave Macmillan Books, in: William Milberg (ed.), Labor and the Globalization of Production, chapter 10, pages 249-265, Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Handle: RePEc:pal:palchp:978-0-230-52396-8_10
    DOI: 10.1057/9780230523968_10

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    Cited by:

    1. Chau, Nancy H., 2016. "On sweatshop jobs and decent work," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 121(C), pages 120-134.


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