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The Impact of International Labor Standards: A Survey of Economic Theory

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  • Nirvikar Singh

    (University of California, Santa Cruz)

Abstract

The main question guiding this study is whether international labor standards will benefit the poor, in particular, developing countries and the poor in those countries. We survey the theoretical literature on international labor standards, and give an overview of the analytical framework and main arguments provided in this literature. Among the situations in which a case for labor standards may arise are imperfections in labor markets, market power effects in international trade, and concerns that consumers, or individuals in general, may have about the working conditions or rights that other individuals enjoy. We emphasize the importance of making clear the value judgments being used, and discuss the different institutional issues that may arise in considering the implementation of labor standards. In general, while there are contexts in which promoting labor standards through some form of collective action is beneficial, we argue that such policies ought to be incorporated into a broader perspective on well-being, and a package of policies that can promote the well-being of the poor.

Suggested Citation

  • Nirvikar Singh, 2004. "The Impact of International Labor Standards: A Survey of Economic Theory," International Trade 0412007, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:wpa:wuwpit:0412007
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    Cited by:

    1. Donado, Alejandro & Wälde, Klaus, 2010. "How bad is globalization for labour standards in the north?," W.E.P. - Würzburg Economic Papers 84, University of Würzburg, Chair for Monetary Policy and International Economics.
    2. Drusilla K. Brown & Alan V. Deardorff & Robert M. Stern, 2009. "Pros and Cons of Linking Trade and Labor Standards," World Scientific Book Chapters, in: Globalization And International Trade Policies, chapter 16, pages 599-621, World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd..
    3. Andrew G. Brown & Robert M. Stern, 2007. "What Are the Issues in Using Trade Agreements for Improving International Labor Standards?," Working Papers 558, Research Seminar in International Economics, University of Michigan.
    4. Doris Weichselbaumer & Rudolf Winter-Ebmer, 2007. "The effects of competition and equal treatment laws on gender wage differentials [‘Models of job discrimination’]," Economic Policy, CEPR;CES;MSH, vol. 22(50), pages 236-287.
    5. Singh, Ajit, 2007. "Globalization and Industrial Revolutions in India and China: Implications for Advanced and Developing Economies and for National and International Policies," MPRA Paper 24286, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    6. Basu, Kaushik, 2003. "Policy Dilemmas for Controlling Child Labor," Working Papers 03-11, Cornell University, Center for Analytic Economics.
    7. 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.
    8. Chris Manning, 2004. "Legislating for Labour Protection: Betting on the Weak or the Strong?," Departmental Working Papers 2004-08, The Australian National University, Arndt-Corden Department of Economics.

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    JEL classification:

    • F1 - International Economics - - Trade
    • F2 - International Economics - - International Factor Movements and International Business

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