IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

How China's Employment Problems Became Trade Problems: China, Labour Law, and the Rule of Law


  • Susan Ariel Aaronson

    () (Institute for International Economic Policy, George Washington University)


In this article, I focus on the potential trade spillovers of Chinese policies to maintain employment. Chinese leaders are determined to maintain employment and have long ignored employment laws that could empower workers. But in 2007, China reformed its labor laws and allowed wide public comment. The new laws enhanced protections for workers, but the consensus among scholars, NGOs, and the US State Department is that these labor laws, like earlier laws, are unevenly and rarely enforced. I argue that Chinese failure to enforce these laws breachits WTO obligations. WTO members could use GATT Article XXIII, which establishes a "right of redress" for changes in domestic policy that systematically erode market access commitments even if no explicit GATT rule has been violated. Used creatively, this strategy could enable WTO member states to encourage China to do a better job of enforcing its labour laws.

Suggested Citation

  • Susan Ariel Aaronson, 2010. "How China's Employment Problems Became Trade Problems: China, Labour Law, and the Rule of Law," Working Papers 2010-11, The George Washington University, Institute for International Economic Policy.
  • Handle: RePEc:gwi:wpaper:2010-11

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. David S. Lee, 2005. "Training, Wages, and Sample Selection: Estimating Sharp Bounds on Treatment Effects," NBER Working Papers 11721, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. World Bank, 2008. "World Development Indicators 2008," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 11855.
    3. Jishnu Das, 2005. "Reassessing Conditional Cash Transfer Programs," World Bank Research Observer, World Bank Group, vol. 20(1), pages 57-80.
    4. Paul Schultz, T., 2004. "School subsidies for the poor: evaluating the Mexican Progresa poverty program," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 74(1), pages 199-250, June.
    5. Corno, Lucia & de Walque, Damien, 2007. "The determinants of HIV infection and related sexual behaviors : evidence from Lesotho," Policy Research Working Paper Series 4421, The World Bank.
    6. Andrew Morrison & Shwetlena Sabarwal, 2008. "The Economic Participation of Adolescent Girls and Young Women : Why Does It Matter?," World Bank Other Operational Studies 11131, The World Bank.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Ceglowski Janet & Golub Stephen S., 2012. "Does China Still Have a Labor Cost Advantage?," Global Economy Journal, De Gruyter, vol. 12(3), pages 1-30, September.

    More about this item


    China; WTO; trade; labor; employment; market access;

    JEL classification:

    • F16 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Trade and Labor Market Interactions
    • F53 - International Economics - - International Relations, National Security, and International Political Economy - - - International Agreements and Observance; International Organizations
    • F59 - International Economics - - International Relations, National Security, and International Political Economy - - - Other


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:gwi:wpaper:2010-11. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Kyle Renner). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.