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 (www.capturingthegains.org). 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 http://www.seed.manchester.ac.uk/subjects/idpm/research/themes/gtl/).
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