Promoting decent work in global value chains

Promoting decent work in global value chains

Global  value chains involve outsourcing and cross-border coordination of global production by lead firms. They are now estimated to account for 60-80% of international trade (WTO, OECD and UNCTAD 2013) and over 20% of jobs globally (ILO 2015). Global value chains (GVCs) have significant implications for work and employment in the contemporary economy. They provide opportunities for social upgrading including access to better paid skilled work and greater female employment. They can also drive social downgrading including precarious work, labour sub-contracting, poor work conditions and lack of rights. 

GVCs can undermine the ability of individual governments to regulate labour conditions and require more effective labour regulation in a global context. GVCs also open up new leverage points for global unions and civil society organisations to demand compliance with international labour standards.  Strategic global alliances are needed to address the systemic drivers of poor labour conditions and to promote decent work in GVCs. The International Labour Organisation has prioritized Decent Work in Global Supply Chains as a focus in 2016.

Research on promoting decent work in global value chains was advanced through the Capturing the Gains research programme based at Manchester (  Multi-disciplinary research is carried out both in the Fairness and Work Research Centre and the research theme on 'Global Production Networks, Labour and Trade' in the School of Environment, Education and Development (see

Related publications

Barrientos, S. (2013) 'Corporate Purchasing Practices in Global Production Networks: a contested social terrain' Geoforum Vol. 44 pp. 44-51.
Barrientos, S. (2013) 'Labour Chains' Analysing the Role of Labour Contractors in Global Production Networks', Journal of Development Studies, Vol. 49 (8).
Barrientos, S. (2014) 'Gendered Global Production Networks: Analysis of Cocoa-Chocolate Sourcing', Regional Studies, Vol. 48 (5): 791-803.
Barrientos, S. and B. Evers (2013) 'Gender production networks: push and pulls on corporate responsibility?' in Shirin Rai and Georgina Waylen (Eds.), New Frontiers in Feminist Political Economy, Routledge, London pp. 43-61.

Barrientos, S. and S. Smith (2012)  'Assessing the ETI Codes of Labour Practice' in P. Utting, D. Reed and A. Mukherjee Reed (eds.) Business Regulation and Non-State Actors: Whose Standards? Whose Development? Routledge, London.

Barrientos, S. G. Gereffi and A. Rossi (2011) 'Economic and Social Upgrading in Global Production Networks – Challenges and Opportunities' International Labour Review Vol. 150 No. 3-4.
Barrientos, S. F. Mayer, J. Pickles and A. Posthuma (2011) 'Labour Standards in Global Production Networks: Framing the Policy Debate' International Labour Review, Vol. 150 No. 3-4.
Coe, N. and M. Hess (2013) “Global Production Networks, Labour and Development”, Geoforum, Vol. 44 (1): 4-9

Doucette, J. (2013) "Minjung tactics in a post Minjung era? The survival of self-immolation and traumatic forms of labour protest in South Korea." In New Forms and Expressions of Conflict in the Workplace, ed. Gregor Gall, pp. 245-271. London: Palgrave-Macmillan.

Nadvi, K. (2008) 'Global Standards, Global Governance and the Organisation of Global Value Chains', Journal of Economic Geography, Vol.8 (3): 323-343.

Nadvi, K. (2014) ''Rising Powers'' and Labour and Environmental Standards: Challenges to the Global Governance of Consumption, Production and Trade' Special Issue of Oxford Development Studies, Vol. 42(2): 137-150.

Nadvi, K. and Raj-Reichert, G. (2015 forthcoming) 'Governing health and safety at lower tiers of the computer industry global value chain', Regulation and Governance, DOI: 10.1111/rego.12079

Laha, S. (2014) "Informality in e-waste processing: an analysis of the Indian experience", Competition + Change, Vol. 18 (4): 309-326.

Raj-Reichert, G. (2013) "Safeguarding labour in distant factories: Health and safety governance in an electronics global production network", Geoforum, Vol. 44, (1): 23-31.

Raj-Reichert, G. (2011) 'The Electronic Industry Code of Conduct: Private governance in a competitive and contested global production network' Competition and Change, Vol. 15(3): 221-238.