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Ratcheting labor standards : regulation for continuous improvement in the global workplace


  • Sabel, Charles
  • O'Rourke, Dara
  • Fung, Archon


Ratcheting Labor Standards (RLS) is a regulatory alternative that aims to improve the social performance of firms in the global economy. Under RLS, firms disclose to a certified monitor, information on their social performance, minimally including working conditions, hours, and wages. The monitors rank firms on the basis of their current social performance, and their rates of improvement, and make these rankings, and the methods on which they are based, accessible to the public. This process, it is argued, encourages leading firms to strive towards superior social practices. Competition among firms, and monitors will help establish two kinds of standards:"best practices"defined by the most advanced firms, and"rates of improvement", shown to be feasible at various levels of development. Both continually"ratchet"upward as the best practices get better still, and firms find ways to accelerate improvement, in a race to the top. These, and other RLS mechanisms, would create incentives for firms to dedicate a portion of the ingenuity, and resources now devoted to product development to the continuous improvement of labor practices.

Suggested Citation

  • Sabel, Charles & O'Rourke, Dara & Fung, Archon, 2000. "Ratcheting labor standards : regulation for continuous improvement in the global workplace," Social Protection and Labor Policy and Technical Notes 23071, The World Bank.
  • Handle: RePEc:wbk:hdnspu:23071

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Blackman, Allen & Bannister, Geoffrey, 1998. "Pollution Control in the Informal Sector: The Ciudad Juárez Brickmakers' Project," Discussion Papers dp-98-15, Resources For the Future.
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    Cited by:

    1. Bartley Tim, 2010. "Transnational Private Regulation in Practice: The Limits of Forest and Labor Standards Certification in Indonesia," Business and Politics, De Gruyter, vol. 12(3), pages 1-36, October.
    2. repec:ilo:ilowps:374997 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Lobel, Orly, 2006. "Sustainable capitalism or ethical transnationalism: Offshore production and economic development," Journal of Asian Economics, Elsevier, vol. 17(1), pages 56-62, February.
    4. Brown, Drusilla K. & Downes, Thomas & Eggleston, Karen & Kumari, Ratna, 2009. "Human Resource Management Technology Diffusion through Global Supply Chains: Buyer-directed Factory-based Health Care in India," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 37(9), pages 1484-1493, September.
    5. Marilyn Carr & Martha Alter Chen & Jane Tate, 2000. "Globalization and Home-Based Workers," Feminist Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 6(3), pages 123-142.
    6. Hayter, Susan., 2005. "The social dimension of global production systems : a review of the issues," ILO Working Papers 993749973402676, International Labour Organization.
    7. L. Cuyvers & T. De Meyer, 2012. "Market-driven Promotion of International Labour Standards in Southeast-Asia – the Corporatization of Social Justice," Chapters,in: Private Standards and Global Governance, chapter 5 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    8. Pegler, L.J., 2011. "Sustainable Value Chains and Labour - Linking Chain and "Inner Drivers"," ISS Working Papers - General Series 525, International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University Rotterdam (ISS), The Hague.
    9. Drusilla K. Brown & Thomas Downes & Karen Eggleston & Ratna Kumari, 2006. "Human Resource Management Technology Diffusion Through Global Supply Chains: Productivity and Workplace Based Health Care," Discussion Papers Series, Department of Economics, Tufts University 0616, Department of Economics, Tufts University.
    10. Berliner, Daniel & Greenleaf, Anne & Lake, Milli & Noveck, Jennifer, 2015. "Building Capacity, Building Rights? State Capacity and Labor Rights in Developing Countries," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 72(C), pages 127-139.
    11. repec:bla:glopol:v:8:y:2017:i::p:29-41 is not listed on IDEAS


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