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

  • Nirvikar Singh

    (University of California, Santa Cruz)

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.

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Paper provided by EconWPA in its series International Trade with number 0412007.

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Length: 95 pages
Date of creation: 08 Dec 2004
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:wpa:wuwpit:0412007
Note: Type of Document - pdf; pages: 95
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  1. 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.
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