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)

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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.

The project receives guidance from an Advisory Board whose members are:

  • Dr. Marva Corley-Coulibaly, Chief of the Globalization, Competitiveness and Labour Standards unit, International Labour Organisation Research Department
  • Prof. Dr. Martina Fuchs, Professor at the Institute of Economic and Social Geography, University of Cologne
  • Prof. Dr. Anke Hassel, Professor of Public Policy, Hertie School of Governance
  • Prof. Dr. Martin Krzywdinksi, Professor of International Labor Relations at the Helmut Schmidt University in Hamburg and Head of Research Group Globalization, Work and Production, WZB
  • Prof. Dr. Jan Orbie, Professor of Political Science, University of Ghent
  • Erwin Schweisshelm, Former Head of the Friedrich-Ebert Stiftung – Hanoi office
  • Prof. Adrian Smith, Professor of Human Geography and Dean for Research, Queen Mary University of London

Papers and publications

Raj-Reichert, G. and Gräf, H. (2020) Socially responsible public procurement by the city and districts of Berlin: protecting workers in global supply chains (unpublished paper, Berlin)

Gräf, Helena/Raj-Reichert, Gale (2020) "Bessere Arbeitsbedingungen weltweit. Das neue Berliner Vergaberecht stärkt soziale Verantwortung für Lieferketten". In: WZB-Mitteilungen, H. 168, S. 95-97.

Raj-Reichert, G. and Gräf, H. (2020) Better working conditions worldwide:  How the new pulic procurement law can ensure social responsibility for supply chains. Unpublished paper, Berlin.

Marslev, K., Staritz, C., Raj-Reichert, G., and Plank, L. (forthcoming) Re-conceptualising social upgrading of workers in the Global South: understanding power relations in the vertical and horizontal axes of global value chains, submission to the WSI-Mitteilungen special issue on Economic and Social Upgrading in Global Supply Chains

Marslev, K. and Staritz, C. (forthcoming) Report: The EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement – what role did it play in labour reform in Vietnam?

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

Presentations

Introduction of the LG-GPN research project to the Advisory Board 6 March 2020, Berlin. Please click here.

Project Management
Duration
01.01.2019-31.12.2021
Funding
Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) and FWF Der Wissenschaftsfonds
Cooperation partners
Department of Development Studies, Faculty of Social Science, University of Vienna
Research Group Public Finance and Infrastructure Policy, Department of Spatial Planning, TU Wien