The premise of this course is that globalization, liberalization, privatization and so on, have created a mix of opportunities and risks for labor in the global economy. These trends have encouraged foreign direct investment and the diffusion of global supply chains and therefore promoted economic development and job growth and improved the quality of life and standard of living of some workers in some countries. On the other hand, globalization and liberalization have undermined social safety nets, eroded labor and environmental standards, and resulted in greater rates of poverty for other workers within these same countries as well as in other developing economies. How do we explain these differences? What kinds of policies can be promoted (and by whom) to more evenly distribute the benefits of globalization? Under what conditions can the labor rights be improved?
Drawing on literature in political science, economics, and sociology, this course will examine the conditions that align the interests of employers, governments, and consumers with those of the workers in order to improve labor rights in the global economy. The course will focus on apparel, footwear, and consumer electronics industries, with some mini-cases drawn from shipwrecking, leather, and mining. We will also employ country case studies, primarily from the developing world, to illustrate a variety of strategies and processes. Major case studies include Honduras, Bangladesh, and China, but we will also discuss labor issues in countries such as India, the Dominican Republic, Brazil, and others. We will also examine some cross-country studies that employ quantitative data sets. The course will run as a mix a lecture interspersed with a seminar-style discussion (approximately 25% seminar-style, discussion based, 75% lecture).