Labour Governance in global production networks: Assessing labour standards in a new generation of public procurement legislation and trade agreements linked to market access into the European Union (LG-GPN)
The global economy is increasingly structured around global production networks (GPNs). For many countries of the Global South, integration into GPNs is a key industrialisation and development strategy. While GPNs have provided employment opportunities and led to improvements in economic development in some countries, they have in many cases also contributed to poor working conditions and international labour rights violations. This is particularly the case for the clothing and electronics industries, which have faced low wages, excessive overtime, insecure work contracts, forced labour, and deaths from building collapses and worker suicides. Public and private governance measures, such as national laws and private standards, thus far, have resulted in limited success in systematically improving working conditions and protecting workers in GPNs. While research on labour governance in GPNs has focused on these more traditional governance measures, we know less about the effects a new generation of labour standards tied to market access into the European Union (EU) (the largest public and private consumer market in the world) can have on working conditions in GPNs.
The LG-GPN project aims to fill this gap by researching the impact labour standards that are part of new free trade agreements and public procurement legislation in the EU can have on labour governance in GPNs. The project case studies are on the clothing and electronics industry GPNs and the production country Vietnam. The case study on Vietnam is relevant because it is a country that is deeply embedded in the clothing and electronics industry GPNs and is an important trading partner of the EU. The LG-GPN project specifically analyses labour provisions as part of the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA) and socially responsible public procurement in Germany, Austria, the Netherlands and Sweden. It assesses if and how these new governance instruments affect governance processes of and power relationships between GPN actors that include firms, civil society organisations, trade unions, and government agencies in the EU and in Vietnam.
The LG-GPN project uses an inter-disciplinary theoretical framework that combines the GPN approach originating in economic geography with emerging theories in transnational regulatory governance from political science and concepts of labour power and transnational networks from labour sociology. The objective of the LG-GPN project is to advance theory on transnational labour governance in GPNs and increase our empirical understanding of labour governance through an under-researched set of labour standards and a key GPN production location in the Asia-Pacific region (Vietnam) with strong economic ties to the EU.
The project is funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG) and the Austrian Science Fund (FWF) and brings together researchers from the Berlin Social Science Center (WZB), the University of Vienna and TU Wien.
Papers and publications
Raj-Reichert, G., Plank, L., and Staritz, C. (forthcoming) A theoretical framework to understand socially responsible public procurement in the EU within global production networks
Deutscher Kongress für Geographie, Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel, 25-30 September
Regulating Decent Work, International Labor Organisation, Geneva, 7-9 July
Society for the Advancement of Socio-Economics Annual Conference, New York City, 27-29 June
XIV Global Labour University Conference, Berlin, 27-29 March