Should core labor standards be imposed through international trade policy?
Numerous proposals have surfaced recently to incorporate a clause about labor standards in the rules of the World Trade Organization (WTO). Such a clause would require each WTO member to recognize and enforce certain core labor standards: forbidding forced labor, discrimination, and the exploitation of child workers, and guaranteeing the rights of workers to associate freely and engage in collective bargaining with employers. Failure to provide core labor standards would subject a country to international trade sanctions. The author analyzes links between core labor standards and international trade policy. He develops a series of simple models to see whether limiting core labor standards in export sectors of developing countries can improve the countries'price competitiveness in export markets. He concludes that deficient provision of core labor standards generally diminishes export competitiveness rather than improving it, because of the distortionary effects of those deficiencies. In other words, concerns about the negative impact on industrial countries of limited wage, employment, and labor standards in developing countries are largely misplaced -with one exception: exploiting child labor could expand exports in highly labor-intensive sectors. But wage spillovers into industrial economy labor markets must be trivial, and there is no empirical evidence that the use of child labor provides measurable competitive advantages. Do international trade sanctions serve a legitimate, effective role in penalizing countries that fail to observe core labor standards? The author points out that trade restrictions are blunt, indirect instruments and may be counterproductive,harming the people they are designed to help and ineffective in achieving stated goals. Thus, including in WTO rules a social clause guaranteeing core labor standards would reduce global efficiency for a small gain. Some approaches -including compensation programs from wealthy countries, focused on poverty reduction and better access to education- would be more effective and less costly than trade restrictions. At the same time, the International Labor Organization could improve its monitoring and publicity efforts, to raise international consciousness about labor standards.
|Date of creation:||31 Aug 1997|
|Date of revision:|
|Contact details of provider:|| Postal: |
Phone: (202) 477-1234
Web page: http://www.worldbank.org/
More information through EDIRC
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
- Brecher, Richard A, 1974. "Minimum Wage Rates and the Pure Theory of International Trade," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 88(1), pages 98-116, February.
- Becker, Gary S., 1971. "The Economics of Discrimination," University of Chicago Press Economics Books, University of Chicago Press, edition 2, number 9780226041162.
- Basu, Kaushik & Van, Pham Hoang, 1998. "The Economics of Child Labor," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(3), pages 412-27, June.
- Kym Anderson, 1996.
"Social Policy Dimensions of Economic Integration: Environmental and Labour Standards,"
NBER Working Papers
5702, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- Kym Anderson, 1997. "Social Policy Dimensions of Economic Integration: Environmental and Labor Standards," NBER Chapters, in: Regionalism versus Multilateral Trade Arrangements, NBER-EASE Volume 6, pages 57-90 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- Anderson, Kym, 1996. "Social Policy Dimensions of Economic Integration: Environmental and Labour Standards," CEPR Discussion Papers 1440, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
- Oaxaca, Ronald L. & Ransom, Michael R., 1994. "On discrimination and the decomposition of wage differentials," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 61(1), pages 5-21, March.
- Corden, W M & Findlay, Ronald, 1975. "Urban Unemployment, Intersectoral Capital Mobility and Development Policy," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 42(165), pages 59-78, February.
- Bell, Linda A, 1997. "The Impact of Minimum Wages in Mexico and Colombia," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 15(3), pages S102-35, July.
- MacIsaac, Donna & Rama, Martin, 1997. "Do labor market regulations affect labor earnings in Ecuador?," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1717, The World Bank.
- Grossman, G.M & Krueger, A.B., 1991.
"Environmental Impacts of a North American Free Trade Agreement,"
158, Princeton, Woodrow Wilson School - Public and International Affairs.
- Grossman, Gene & Krueger, Alan B, 1992. "Environmental Impacts of a North American Free Trade Agreement," CEPR Discussion Papers 644, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
- Gene M. Grossman & Alan B. Krueger, 1991. "Environmental Impacts of a North American Free Trade Agreement," NBER Working Papers 3914, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- Keith E. Maskus, 1991. "Comparing International Trade Data and Product and National Characteristics Data for the Analysis of Trade Models," NBER Chapters, in: International Economic Transactions: Issues in Measurement and Empirical Research, pages 17-60 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- Brecher, Richard A., 1974. "Optimal commercial policy for a minimum-wage economy," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 4(2), pages 139-149, May.
- Paul Krugman & Robert Lawrence, 1993. "Trade, Jobs, and Wages," NBER Working Papers 4478, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- Casella, Alessandra, 1995. "Free Trade and Evolving Standards," CEPR Discussion Papers 1204, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
- Feenstra, Robert C., 1980. "Monopsony distortions in an open economy: A theoretical analysis," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 10(2), pages 213-235, May.
- Fallon, Peter R & Lucas, Robert E B, 1991. "The Impact of Changes in Job Security Regulations in India and Zimbabwe," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 5(3), pages 395-413, September.
- Nelson, Joan M, 1991. "Organized Labor, Politics, and Labor Market Flexibility in Developing Countries," World Bank Research Observer, World Bank Group, vol. 6(1), pages 37-56, January.
- Martin, John P, 1976. "Variable Factor Supplies and the Heckscher-Ohlin-Samuelson Model," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 86(344), pages 820-31, December.
- Miyagiwa, Kaz, 1993. "The locational choice for free-trade zones : Rural versus urban options," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 40(1), pages 187-203, February.
- Harrison, Ann E & Leamer, Edward, 1997. "Labor Markets in Developing Countries: An Agenda for Research," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 15(3), pages S1-19, July.
- Miyagiwa, Kaz F., 1986. "A reconsideration of the welfare economics of a free-trade zone," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 21(3-4), pages 337-350, November.
When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:1817. 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: (Roula I. Yazigi)
If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.