Journal Article

Labour Standards and the ‘Race to the Bottom’: Rethinking Globalization and Workers' Rights from Developmental and Solidaristic Perspectives

Ajit Singh and Ann Zammit

in Oxford Review of Economic Policy

Published on behalf of The Oxford Review of Economic Policy Ltd

Volume 20, issue 1, pages 85-104
Published in print March 2004 | ISSN: 0266-903X
Published online March 2004 | e-ISSN: 1460-2121 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/oxrep/grh006
Labour Standards and the ‘Race to the Bottom’: Rethinking Globalization and Workers' Rights from Developmental and Solidaristic Perspectives

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There is a protracted stalemate between rich (the North) and poor (the South) countries over the question of minimum labour standards in developing economies. This paper is a sequel to Singh and Zammit (2000). It considers afresh key issues in the controversy. While fully recognizing the moral, political, and philosophical dimensions of this complex issue, the paper concentrates on the central economic question of the ‘race to the bottom’. It emphasizes the difficulties of establishing labour standards in the vast informal sectors in developing countries and suggests that the ILO conventions 87 and 98 should be amended to reflect properly these concerns. It also argues that ILO core conventions should be broadened to include the right to a decent living. The overall conclusion is that labour standards are important indicators of economic development, but their promotion is best achieved in a non-coercive and supportive international environment such as that provided by the ILO.

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Subjects: Economic Development and Growth ; Public Economics ; Political Economy ; Public Policy

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