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Trade and the distributional politics of international labour standards


  • Oslington, Paul


This paper constructs a simple general equilibrium model of the trade and distributional effects of spreading advanced country international labour standards to developing countries. Labour standards (including minimum safety requirements, prohibition of prison and child labour, and rights to unionise) are represented as a floor to the cost of employing labour. The model shows how the spread of standards affects the terms of trade and pattern of international specialisation, and can shift unskilled unemployment from advanced to developing countries, redistribute income among groups of factor owners in different countries. Political support for labour standards is predicted to come from a coalition of advanced country unskilled workers with insecure jobs and the secure unskilled in developing countries. Opposition is predicted from owners of other factors. Overall country lobbying positions in international forums will depend on the relative strengths of the groups within the country.

Suggested Citation

  • Oslington, Paul, 2005. "Trade and the distributional politics of international labour standards," MPRA Paper 963, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:963

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. 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.
    2. Drusilla K. Brown, 2001. "Labor Standards: Where Do They Belong on the International Trade Agenda?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 15(3), pages 89-112, Summer.
    3. Alireza Naghavi, 2003. "Asymmetric labor markets and the location of firms: Are multinationals attracted to weak labor standards?," Working Papers 200323, School of Economics, University College Dublin.
    4. Brown, D.K. & Dearorff, A.V. & Stern, R.M., 1993. "International Labor Standards and Trade: A Theoretical Analysis," Working Papers 333, Research Seminar in International Economics, University of Michigan.
    5. Richard A. Brecher, 1974. "Minimum Wage Rates and the Pure Theory of International Trade," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 88(1), pages 98-116.
    6. Maskus, Keith E., 1997. "Should core labor standards be imposed through international trade policy?," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1817, The World Bank.
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    More about this item


    Trade; International Labour Standards; Harmonization;

    JEL classification:

    • F16 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Trade and Labor Market Interactions


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