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Linking Trade and Labour Standards: Evaluating Existing Arguments and Presenting New Concerns

- Apoorva Nangia


Economies and societies in the world have undergone a drastic shift with trade liberalisation and globalisation. These policies have a strong impact on living conditions, both for individuals and communities. They have created jobs for millions of workers, especially women. These jobs are seen as a means to gender equality, economic independence, and empowerment. However, in reality, the benefits arising out of these jobs are distributed in an uneven manner as they replicate and reinforce existing patterns of marginalisation across race, caste, gender, and nationality. Hence, while women workers are the holders of jobs created through trade liberalisation and globalisation, they are not seen as the beneficiaries.[1] The lack of minimum labour standards is considered a primary reason why women workers are not benefitting from these jobs.[2] Recently, the problem of poor working conditions, worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic, was highlighted in garment factories in Asia.[3] The linkage of trade and labour standards is one of the crucial solutions to ensuring better working conditions and more equitable distribution of the benefits of globalisation.

The practice of linking trade and labour rights is not new. Historically, countries have reacted to gross human rights violations in other countries through trade sanctions and economic boycotts. Core labour rights are often characterised as an important component of universal human rights. Hence, trade-related retaliation in situations of core labour rights violations is a historically supported practice. Further, the liberal trading regime is itself seen as a way to promote human freedom and choice. Thus, trade sanctions in situations where human freedom is violated are consistent with the goals of this regime.[4] The linkage is also considered important from an enforcement perspective. For example, in 2000, the International Labour Organization (‘ILO’) recommended trade sanctions against Myanmar in light of gross violations of labour rights.[5] The ILO does not have an effective enforcement mechanism of its own and instead relies on the trade-labour linkage.[6] If the linkage is successful, the WTO Dispute Settlement Body will be involved and can be used to judicially enforce labour standards and ensure compliance.[7]

While the linkage resolves concerns about enforcing human rights, it does not garner universal support.[8] There is a plethora of literature on the stances taken by various groups in the debate on linkage. This article seeks to analyse the existing arguments from a feminist perspective that is rooted in historical and social contexts. The international feminist approach is one that focuses on the distinctive experiences of women, which are factored out of consideration in the debate over international law and policy.[9] However, this article will not use the international feminist methodology as the figure of the woman is an abstract conception here. The abstract, ahistorical woman is in fact a universalisation of the ‘Western’ woman in developed countries. However, when we talk of women losing out through trade liberalisation, the implicit reference is to women in developing and least developed countries. The article will use postcolonial and postcolonial feminist methodologies to shift the focus to these women. Postcolonial methodology stresses uncovering the colonial influence over present structures and processes and destabilising dominant discourses that are based on Western-produced knowledge.[10] A critique from this perspective will uncover how existing arguments ignore the historical and social contexts of current systems and thereby produce decontextualised solutions.

The first part of this article analyses and evaluates existing arguments in favour of the trade-labour linkage – economic exploitation, race to the bottom, and moral outrage. It then addresses the concerns of those who oppose the linkage on grounds of protectionism and comparative advantage. It also reflects on the implications of these grounds on how we perceive the distribution of development benefits. It argues in favour of the linkage from a postcolonial feminist perspective.

The second part of the article provides some caveats against the trade-labour linkage in light of existing structures and international relations. It highlights the gendered nature of the labour market, due to which the linkage could have counterproductive effects. Further, to realise the linkage, ILO’s involvement is necessary to set out labour standards. It critically examines ILO’s politics and standards to problematise its involvement in the linkage. Such problematisation is essential to ensuring that we remain aware and wary of existing power structures being reproduced while we resolve concerns about labour rights across the world.

I. Evaluating Existing Arguments

This part seeks to evaluate the terms of the current debate on trade-labour linkage. It analyses arguments made in favour of and against the linkage by various actors such as developed and developing countries, consumer groups, and trade unions by employing a postcolonial feminist methodology. It argues in favour of the linkage, by drawing on and adding to the current terms of the debate, as an anti-colonial measure that must be implemented with political responsibility from the Global North and the Global South.

A. Worker Exploitation

Countries of the Global South are constantly trying to catch-up, to bridge the development gap between themselves and the Global North. Global structures of production are dominantly determined by the Global North, wherein low value-addition activities are performed in the Global South.[11] With trade liberalisation, developing and least-developed countries adopted export-oriented industrialisation in an attempt to catch-up within the framework of existing structures. In these industries, cost minimisation is essential for firms to be efficient and successful. Low labour standards and informal work are often convenient means to reduce costs. Pursuantly, governments of developing and least developed countries have deregulated employment by eroding existing labour standards. This not only reduces the costs of exports, thereby making them more competitive but also encourages foreign investment in production activities due to global labour arbitrage.[12]

Government deregulation has feminised a lot of work that was male-dominated earlier. Deregulated jobs have very low wages, temporary and contractual employment, and no access to social protection or insurance.[13] Despite these issues, women in these countries accept employment as it presents a steadier income than alternatives such as rural activity, it does not require specialised training or education, and women can leave the job in case of increased domestic work.[14] The acceptance of poor working conditions is premised on patriarchal norms and class and is a result of gendered disadvantage in the job market. Women’s work is considered unskilled and is devalued, thereby foreclosing better employment opportunities, even if available.[15]

The lack of minimum labour standards reduces the cost of production by devaluing work and privatising the negative externalities of employment. This creates profits for multinational corporations and consumers in developed countries as they are able to extract surplus from workers. Workers are exploited as their wages and benefits do not reflect the full value of their contribution in terms of value addition. There is an unequal exchange, where more value is extracted from workers than what is paid to them. This unequal exchange creates lopsided benefits in liberalised trade, where developed countries are benefitting more than workers in developing and least developed countries. This model is a reproduction of imperialist global structures.[16] During colonialism, metropoles relied on low-value addition production in colonies (agricultural and mining activities) to support their own industrial economy. One of the primary ways through which costs were kept low in the colony was the employment of forced labour, which enabled surplus value extraction from the colony to the metropole.[17] The resistance to such extraction through minimum labour standards is therefore an anti-colonial measure that enables a break from the unjust structures of the global economy.

B. Race to the Bottom

Since many countries have adopted export-oriented industrialisation as a means of development, there is a race among them to be the most competitive and attract the most investment.[18] This has pushed countries to continuously reduce their labour standards, in competition with one another.[19] There is a constant downward pressure and hence, a race to the bottom. To prevent constant labour deregulation, it is considered imperative to have trade sanctions if countries violate certain minimum labour standards.[20] Not only will the linkage raise working and living conditions in developing and least developed countries, but it will also prevent the drain of these employment opportunities from developed countries. Hence, all workers benefit from global minimum labour standards.[21]

C. Moral Outrage

Governments, trade unions, student groups, and consumer groups of the West, such as the US and European countries, have expressed moral outrage at the poor and inhumane working conditions in developing and least developed countries. The use of trade sanctions against countries that do not comply with minimum labour standards is a way to alleviate this moral outrage. However, this argument provides a very weak ground for making a trade-labour linkage as it results in the imposition of foreign, Western moral standards. Governments of developing and least-developed countries are highly opposed to being bound by these morals, especially due to the economic costs arising out of higher labour standards (to be discussed in greater detail later).[22]

Scholars have rhetorically suggested that individuals, groups, and governments of developed countries must pay for the cost of meeting their moral standards.[23] This article takes this argument very seriously. This form of payment shows that developed countries are serious about raising labour standards and are not using the trade-labour linkage in an opportunistic manner.[24] On the contrary, one may argue that since workers in the Global South are the ones receiving the benefits, their governments, who are supposed to ensure their welfare, must bear the cost.

Even with this kind of reasoning, it is argued that groups in the Global North are not free of responsibility.[25] This is supported by a feminist perspective of political responsibility for justice.[26] Previously, the article showed how consumers and multi-national corporations of developed countries benefit from surplus value extraction due to low labour standards in developing and least developed countries.[27] These groups benefit from structural inequalities between the Global North and the Global South. They also reproduce the same inequalities by complying with the institutions and processes that produce them.[28] Iris Marion Young has suggested the “social connection model” that places responsibility on all those who contribute to processes that produce unjust results. The purpose of this is not to assign blame on particular individuals but to hold participants of unjust institutions and structures responsible for the results. If the goal is justice for those who are currently disadvantaged, the burden of rendering that justice must be on everyone who benefits from and reifies the existing structures of inequality.[29] This model distributes the burden of better working conditions to everyone who benefits from poor labour standards. It encourages consumer groups, retailers, and global brands to challenge what are currently acceptable business practices, especially consumerism.[30] Hence, it goes a step further from arguing in favour of trade and labour linkage as it conceptualises the responsibility of bearing the burden of the linkage from a structural perspective.

D. Comparative Advantage and Protectionism

The loss of comparative advantage is the primary reason behind developing and least developed countries’ opposition to the trade-labour linkage. During colonialism, labour standards were used to impact comparative advantage in colonies. For example, when the British introduced factory regulations in India, one of the key motives was to protect employment in British textile industries against cheap labour from the colonies.[31] Labour standards were used as a strategic protectionist measure, to prevent Britain’s loss of comparative advantage in the industrial sector to the cheaper production avenues available in the colonies. Industrial growth in the colony was hampered by the metropole to ensure that the colony served as a reproducer of raw materials.[32] Similar concerns exist even today, that the trade-labour linkage is a ‘thinly disguised protectionist agenda’.[33] Trade sanctions against low labour standards are seen as a way to dampen industrial growth in the Global South and promote domestic production in the Global North. This is seen as a direct attack on the attempts of Global South countries to catch-up through industrialisation.

Developing and least developed countries justify their stance through the Ricardian theory. They argue that all countries benefit when each produces what it specialises in. If the comparative advantage of a country lies in such production that does not require much skill, through the employment of cheaply available surplus labour, then the country should produce those products.[34] The low labour standards and wages are seen as a reflection of the lack of skill and the abundance of labour supply.[35] Further, they are also considered a reflection of the country’s development level. The priority of the country is economic growth and not the standards of living, which will automatically improve with growth. Low labour standards in Europe during the Industrial Revolution are used to justify labour laws that are development-specific.[36]

While these arguments reflect valid interests in economic development and growth in the Global South, they still follow a colonial logic. There is a continuity between the colonial and the post-colonial, in that the focus is on advancing economic growth, at the cost of workers and labour rights. Developing and least developed countries wish to follow the same development trajectory as Europe, as is seen from the argument on low-labour standards in Europe during Industrial Revolution.[37] The Western way of doing things is largely considered the universal and the only way of doing things.

This raises questions of how ‘development’ is perceived – is it merely aggregate economic growth or something more?[38] Development is a product of post-colonial discourse and needs to be decolonised to prevent structures of inequality from being reproduced.[39] This article will not delve into a deeper analysis of the need for decolonisation. The only point that must be acknowledged here is that developing and least developed countries’ concerns are rooted in a colonial past of injustice and their current actions perpetuate similar unjust results. Safe working conditions, minimum labour standards, and equitable distribution of benefits of growth decolonise the existing development trajectory. The burden of decolonisation is to be borne, at least partially, by the States and the elite of these countries, who benefit from the labour of their workers. They also bear political responsibility under the above-detailed social connection model.

Summing Up

The first part makes a strong case for the linkage of trade and labour standards. It does not delve into the form of the linkage – whether it should be trade sanctions or trade incentives, unilateral or multilateral, and adjudicated or non-adjudicated. Multiple models have been proposed and analysed by scholars.[40] These models must be evaluated on their merits while keeping in mind lived realities of those who are meant to benefit from the linkage. The only aspect that this article emphasises is the political responsibility of those who benefit from the global structures of trade and production (consumer groups, retailers, brands, Global South States, and elite) to contribute to the implementation and actualisation of better labour standards through the linkage.

II. Caveats to the Linkage

The first part of the article evaluated existing arguments in the linkage debate and argued for the linkage from a postcolonial feminist perspective. The second part of the article moves away from the debate itself to critically examine the actualisation of the linkage. It analyses how the linkage can be counterproductive and problematic in light of the existing structures of marginalisation. It provides caveats to the linkage to account for the social and economic realities of gendered work and colonial continuities of conceptualising labour rights, as these impact the implementation and outcomes of the linkage.

A. Perpetuating the Gendered Disadvantage

In the first part, the article detailed the reasons why women accept jobs in export-oriented industries, despite their very poor working conditions.[41] It is important for policy and lawmakers to account for these reasons while linking trade and labour standards. An increase in the cost of employment due to greater requirements of labour standards could result in a shift in the location of industries, to benefit from global labour arbitrage, even after the trade-labour linkage. This could result in the unemployment of the women who were formerly at least employed, even if the working conditions were poor and with pay quite low.[42] Women working in these industries see their employment as a chance to enter the manufacturing sector of paid work, from which they have been historically excluded. Their earning makes them more valuable in a patriarchal, male-dominated family and gives them a certain sense of freedom. While there is a desire for better working conditions, it is never voiced due to the fear of unemployment. Unemployment will push women back into other sources of work, such as family labour in agriculture and care-work, which are unpaid. Hence, women can be put in a worse-off situation with a rise in labour standards.[43]

Further, even with the introduction of minimum labour standards, the existence of an informal sector disadvantages women workers. The informal sector is not characterised merely as the mistaken absence of formality or regulation.[44] Instead, it is a deliberate mode of governing labour relations that is built into the manner in which labour laws function. Labour laws apply selectively to workplaces, based on the kind of work, number of employees, the employment relation, etc. The lack of their universal application means that there is scope for workers to be excluded from the benefits of higher labour standards. In a gendered economy, where women continue to face discrimination and marginalisation in workplaces, it is most likely that they will be the ones pushed into the informal sector or be made to work as informal workers in the formal sector. This will create a greater differential between men and women workers. In fact, this trend already exists in India.[45] In the existing literature on linkage, this concern was absent. Higher labour standards through the trade-labour linkage will not have the desired impact of improving working conditions for these women if the debate ignores the applicability and coverage of labour laws. Similarly, it is equally essential to consider how structuring labour relations through contractual and casual work can be used to evade labour regulation, thereby resulting in informality. Labour governance through informality needs to be fundamentally challenged to ensure that the linkage does not worsen the gendered disadvantage in labour markets.

Lastly, even if labour standards are made universally applicable, gendered segregation and the valuation of work remain unaddressed. Labour markets are socially constructed, and the value of work, the value of skill, and the suitability of the worker are determined as per social norms. Different tasks are socially constructed as suitable for men or women as an extension of normative gender roles. The value of the task is also determined in this manner.[46] Hence, even with higher labour standards, women will be unable to access high-paying jobs and better opportunities if gender discrimination in the workplace and the larger economy remains unaddressed.

B. Problematising ILO’s Involvement

In most models of trade-labour linkage, the ILO is involved as it sets down core labour standards and has expertise in reviewing compliance of domestic laws with these standards. Even if decision-making on sanctions is entrusted with the WTO or some other international body, the ILO’s involvement is considered essential.[47] This section problematises the involvement of ILO, from a postcolonial and postcolonial feminist perspective. The point of this is not to argue against the trade-labour linkage but to challenge existing ways of conceptualising it.

Since its inception after the First World War, the ILO has had a tense relationship with colonialism. On the one hand, the ILO challenged several labour rights violations in colonies and pushed metropoles to improve working conditions in colonies. On the other hand, the ILO worked within the ideas of colonial difference and became an institutional tool to reify imperialist assumptions.[48] At the time of its establishment, ILO’s membership was dominated by industrialised European countries. The standards set by ILO were aimed at industrial and European workers. While the ILO did push for some labour rights within the colony, racialised assumptions that workers in colonies deserved less degree of labour standards led to separate (lower) standards for ‘native workers’.[49] For example, child labour standards were devised keeping the European child in mind. The British government used its influence within the ILO to push for lower standards for children in colonies (based on colonial difference) so that colonial extraction could continue unabated.[50] Further, while colonial governments were reluctant to implement even ‘native’ standards, they saw these as an opportunity to propagate the narrative of civilisation and good governance.[51]

Even after the ILO gave up on differentiating between the metropoles and colonies, it did not account for the contexts of colonised economies while formulating and extending standards. One of the first projects in ILO’s vision of universal labour rights was to extend metropole standards applicable to women and children to the colonies. The project was rooted in a ‘modernisation’ paradigm, meant to replicate metropole conditions of work. One of the standards that were extended was banning women from working in underground mines, which was formulated with the European woman in mind. The colonised women definitely wanted some protection but in the form of better working conditions in the mines and not an absolute ban per se. However, the ILO completely ignored their agency. It worked on the premise of ‘weakness’ of women and children, thereby propagating gendered governance.[52] Further, it also used a Western construction of woman, while silencing its (supposed) beneficiaries.[53] Similarly, even in child labour standards, the ILO universalised the European conception of childhood (based on age), despite childhood being a cultural and social construct that varies.[54] Both these instances show that ILO’s standards are presupposed on dominant cultures and knowledge. They not only rely on this discourse but also further it. The voices of the Global South, especially its women, are heard only to the extent that they conform to the expectations of the dominant Eurocentric discourse.[55]

The dominance of Western discourse is also present in formulating and representing labour rights violations. The primary concerns that are articulated while arguing in favour of the linkage are biased against developing and least-developed countries. Issues prevalent in developed countries such as participation in management, union rights, migrant and immigrant rights, etc are not articulated as concerns while devising ‘minimum labour standards’ for the linkage.[56] Further, issues of local enforcement are also focused on sweatshops in the Global South, despite exploitation in the Global North as well.[57] The focus of labour rights violations follows the colonial discourse, where colonies were described as uncivilised and oppressive. Another issue is the possible domination of Western standards in reviewing compliance with labour standards. Labour laws and gender discrimination in labour are embedded in local contexts.[58] This means that labour laws may be formulated differently everywhere. While reviewing compliance of domestic laws with labour standards, Western dominance will lead to problems – decontextualised and ineffective laws that meet the Western expectation will not lead to trade sanctions but contextualised and effective laws that do not meet the Western expectation could lead to sanctions.[59]

The ILO also uses the international human rights framework to universalise labour rights.[60] The international human rights discourse deals with its own problems of Eurocentrism. It is dominated by Western ideals that must be imposed on the ‘other’, to make the other ‘human’”. Along with civilisation and good governance, humanisation formed an essential ideological foundation of colonialism. While this is not meant to discount the oppression faced by several groups in the “other”, this narrative only harms the people considered victims.[61] The harms of this mode of thinking were highlighted earlier while dealing with the universalisation of ILO’s standards on women working in underground mines. Another issue with the victim-saviour narrative is that it essentialises all women in the Global South and views them through a unidimensional and essentialist perspective, without reference to the historical and cultural contexts of their oppression. This means that the improvement of labour standards will be decontextualised and ineffective. Further, women who are not considered to fit within the victimhood narrative are either silenced so they fit the narrative or excluded from the “benevolent” project. The construction of victimhood also ignores the material benefits that stem from employment even with poor conditions. Ignoring this could lead to counterproductive effects, as described earlier.[62]

When developed countries articulate the trade-labour linkage, a primary issue is that they fail to recognise the imperialist history of labour exploitation. Colonial labour laws were one way to serve the West’s interests. For example, colonial labour laws in British India were meant to regulate workers to make them modern and more efficient, as opposed to protecting labour interests.[63] Labour laws today in post-colonial nations follow the same principles and ideologies, which severely limits the potential of these laws to drastically improve working conditions.[64] This challenge to labour laws themselves is a fundamental question that must be addressed, without which the potential of the trade-labour linkage will be limited. Another question to take seriously and view critically is the meaning of ‘labour’ in labour laws.[65] This meaning is itself a construct.[66] Without challenging and reimagining its meaning, various kinds of work, such as unpaid care-work and agricultural work, will still remain excluded from the trade-labour linkage.

The second part of the article focused on the issues of gendered disadvantage in the labour market and the colonial tendencies of the ILO to problematise the implementation of the linkage. The first part showed how, theoretically, the linkage is in favour of workers, especially women workers in the Global South. However, by locating the reality of implementation in the gendered nature of the postcolonial labour market, the ILO, and the very conceptualisation of labour law, the second part showed how the linkage can be disadvantageous. Specifically, it showed how implementing the linkage within existing institutions is very likely to be counterproductive to women workers in the Global South. Hence, a critical outlook must be employed towards these institutions to ensure that the linkage reaches its full potential of improving labour standards.

III. Conclusion

This article filled a gap in the existing literature on the trade-labour linkage by evaluating existing arguments from a postcolonial feminist lens. This exercise showed how these arguments fit within certain historical, social, cultural, and imperialist structures. The acknowledgement of these structures places policy and lawmakers in a better position to come up with solutions that address different kinds of inequalities and lived experiences. It also contextualises the dual position of postcolonial countries as oppressed within global regimes and being oppressive by reproducing inequality. The first part argued in favour of the trade-labour linkage from perspectives of imperialist economic exploitation and equitable distribution of development benefits while also envisaging political responsibility of various actors in the Global North and South in achieving outcomes. The second part raised some fundamental issues with how the linkage would pan out within international power differentials and institutions. The purpose of this was to demonstrate how implementing the trade-labour linkage could also lead to adverse outcomes due to existing institutions that are central to the implementation. It specifically focused on concerns of informality and unemployment, and how labour and its rights are fundamentally envisaged. These fundamental questions are important not only for the linkage debate but are also meant to spur critical engagement with how we generally interpret ‘labour rights’. They are to push us beyond reformist agendas and out of existing colonial conceptions, towards a radical reimagination that is rooted in lived experiences of work across cultures.

[1] Anna Ventouratou, ‘A Feminist Approach to the Interpretation of the WTO Agreements: Systemic Integration as a Gender Issue’ (2021) Working Paper University of Oxford – Faculty of Law <> accessed 8 December 2021. [2] ibid. [3] See Marc Bain, ‘Indian garment workers are caught between Covid-19 and lost wages’ (Quartz, 28 April 2021) <> accessed 7 June 2022; Elizabeth Paton, ‘‘Our Situation is Apocalyptic’: Bangladesh Garment Workers Face Ruin’ (New York Times, 11 August 2021) <> accessed 7 June 2022; Pallavi Pundir, ‘International Fashion Houses Are Leaving Millions of Asians Jobless. Now the Workers Are Protesting’ (Vice, 25 June 2020) <> accessed 7 June 2022. [4] Michael J Trebilock and Robert Howse, ‘Trade Policy and Labor Standards’ (2005) 14(2) Minnesota Journal of Global Trade 261. [5]Joshua M Kagan, ‘Making Free Trade Fair: How the WTO Could Incorporate Labor Rights and Why It Should’ (2011) 43 Georgetown Journal of International Law 195. [6] ibid. [7] TN Srinivasan, ‘International Trade and Labor Standards’ in Arvid Lukauskas, Robert M Stern and Gianni Zanini (eds), Handbook of Trade Policy for Development (OUP 2013). [8] Rohini Hensman, ‘Minimum Labour Standards and Trade Agreements: An Overview of the Debate’ (1996) 31(16-17) Economic and Political Weekly 1030. [9] Ventouratou (n 1). [10] Cheryl McEwan, ‘Postcolonialism, feminism and development: intersections and dilemmas’ (2001) 1(2) Progress in Development Studies 93. [11] Intan Suwandi, Jamil Jonna and John Bellamy Foster, ‘Global Commodity Chains and the New Imperialism’ (Monthly Review, 1 March 2019) <> accessed 8 December 2021. [12] Guy Standing, ‘Global Feminization through Flexible Labor’ (1989) 17(7) World Development 1077. [13] Ventouratou (n 1). [14] Ventouratou (n 1). [15] Alessandra Mezzadri, ‘Class, gender and the sweatshop: on the nexus between labour commodification and exploitation’ (2016) 37(10) Third World Quarterly 1877. [16] Suwandi, Jonna and Foster (n 11). [17] Bipin Chandra, ‘Colonialism, Stages of Colonialism and the Colonial State’ (1980) 10(3) Journal of Contemporary Asia 272. [18] There is a lot of contestation among scholars as to whether labour deregulation in fact attracts foreign investment and business. Scholars such as Jagdish Bhagwati and Bob Hepple have argued that reduced cost through lower standards is offset by other factors such as locational disadvantage. Further, adherence to minimum labour standards does not significantly increase the cost of production. Hence, it does not affect investment decisions or reduce export competitiveness. See Jagdish Bhagwati, ‘Trade liberalisation and ‘Fair Trade’ Demands: Addressing the Environmental and Labour Standards Issues’ (1995) 18(6) The World Economy 745; Bob Hepple, ‘The WTO as a Mechanism for Labour Regulation’ in Brian Bercusson and Cynthia Estlund (eds), Regulating Labour in the Wake of Globalisation (Hart Publishing 2008). [19] Aneta Tyc, ‘Linkage Between Labour Standards and International Trade: How to Offset the Global Inequality?’ (2019) 9(1) Wroclaw Review of Law, Administration and Economics 58. [20] Kagan (n 5). [21] Naila Kabeer, ‘Globalization, Labor Standards, and Women’s Rights: Dilemmas of Collective (In)Action in an Interdependent World’ (2004) 10(1) Feminist Economics 3; Ajit Singh and Ann Zammit, ‘Labour Standards and the ‘Race to the Bottom’: Rethinking Globalization and Workers’ Rights from Developmental and Solidaristic Perspectives’ (2004) 20(1) Oxford Review of Economic Policy 85. [22] Drusilla K Brown, ‘Labor Standards: Where Do They Belong on the International Trade Agenda?’ (2001) 15(3) Journal of Economic Perspectives 89. [23] Srinivasan (n 7) and Bhagwati (n 18). [24] See the discussion in ‘Comparative Advantage and Protectionism’. [25] The term responsibility is used in the sense of ‘political responsibility’, in contradistinction to ‘fault’ or ‘liability’. Fault and liability models cover only those situations where a person is directly blameworthy or liable for a certain wrong. However, political responsibility also covers those who participate and benefit from the institutions and structures that cause such wrongs. See Iris Marion Young, ‘Responsibility and Global Labor Justice’ (2004) 12(4) Journal of Political Philosophy 365. [26] ibid. [27] See the discussion in ‘Worker Exploitation’. [28] Serena Parekh and Shelley Wilcox, ‘Feminist Perspectives on Globalization’ in Edward N Zalta (ed), The Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy (Spring Edition 2020) <> accessed 8 December 2021. [29] Iris Marion Young, Responsibility for Justice (OUP 2011). [30] Young, ‘Responsibility and Global Labor Justice’ (n 25). [31] Richard Mitchell, Petra Mahy and Peter Gahan, ‘The Evolution of Labour Law in India: An Overview and Commentary on Regulatory Objectives and Development’ (2014) 1 Asian Journal of Law and Society 413. [32] Chandra (n 17). [33] Tyc (n 19). [34] Stephen S Golub, ‘International Labor Standards and International Trade’ (1997) IMF Working Paper WP/97/37 <> accessed 8 December 2021. [35] ibid. [36] Christian Barry and Sanjay G Reddy, International Trade and Labor Standards: A Proposal for Linkage (Columbia University Press 2008). [37] Golub (n 34). [38] There are various alternative conceptions of development, including the popularly known model of ‘development as freedom’ proposed by Sen. See Amartya Sen, Development as Freedom (first published 1999, OUP 2001). [39] McEwan (n 10); Uma Kothari, ‘Feminist and Postcolonial Challenges to Development’ in Uma Kothari and Martin Minogue (eds), Development Theory and Practice: Critical Perspectives (Palgrave 2002). [40] See Barry and Reddy (n 36); Hepple (n 18); and Tyc (n 19). [41] See the discussion in ‘Worker Exploitation’. [42] Nilufer Cagatay, ‘Gender and International Labor Standards in the World Economy’ (1996) 28(3) Review of Radical Political Economics 92. [43] Kabeer (n 21). [44] Dennis Arnold and Joseph R. Bongiovi, ‘Precarious, Informalizing, and Flexible Work: Transforming Concepts and Understandings’ (2013) 57(3) American Behavioral Scientist 289. [45] Shahra Razavi and Ruth Pearson, ‘Globalization, Export-oriented Employment and Social Policy: Gendered Connections’ in Shahra Razavi, Ruth Pearson and Caroline Danloy (eds), Globalization, Export-oriented Employment and Social Policy: Gendered Connections (Palgrave Macmillan 2004). [46] Lauren McCarthy, Vivek Soundararajan and Scott Taylor, ‘The Hegemony of Men in Global Value Chains: Why it Matters for Labour Governance’ (2020) Human Relations < > accessed 8 December 2021. [47] Christine Breining-Kaufmann, Globalisation and Labour Rights (Hart Publishing 2007). [48] Miguel Bandeira Jerónimo & José Pedro Monteiro, ‘Colonial Labour Internationalized: Portugal and the Decolonization Momentum (1945-1975)’ (2019) 42(3) The International History Review 485. [49] Gerry Rodgers and others, The International Labour Organization and the quest for Social Justice, 1919-2009 (International Labour Organization 2009). [50] Sacha Hepburn and April Jackson, ‘Colonial Exceptions: The International Labour Organization and Child Labour in British Africa, c. 1919-1940’ (2021) Journal of Contemporary History <> accessed 8 December 2021. [51] Jerónimo and Monteiro (n 48). [52] It is relevant to note that the ILO envisaged gendered governance for work within the metropole as well. It adopted a protectionist stance towards working women. See Sandra Whitworth, ‘Gender, international relations and the case of the ILO’ (1994) 20 Review of International Studies 389; Rossana Barragan Romano and Leda Papastefanaki, ‘Women and Gender in the Mines: Challenging Masculinity Through History: An Introduction’ (2020) 65(2) International Review of Social History 191. [53] Susan Zimmermann, ‘Globalizing Gendered Labour Policy: International Labour Standards and the Global South, 1919-1947’ in Eileen Boris, Dorothea Hoehtker and Susan Zimmermann (eds), Women’s ILO: Transnational Networks, Global Labour Standards, and Gender Equity, 1919 to Present (Brill 2018). [54] Hepburn and Jackson (n 50). [55] Ofelia Schutte, ‘Feminism and Globalization Processes in Latin America’ in Mario Saenz, Latin American Perspectives on Globalization (Rowman and Littlefield Publishers 2002). [56] Bhagwati (n 18). [57] Amit Dasgupta, ‘Labour Standards and WTO: A New Form of Protectionism’ (2000) 1(2) South Asia Economic Journal 113. [58] Mezzadri (n 15). [59] Arvind Panagariya, ‘Labor Standards and Trade Sanctions: Right End Wrong Means’ in Devashish Mitra and Rana Hasan (eds), The Impact of Trade on Labor: Issues, Perspectives, and Experiences from Developing Asia (Elsevier Science 2003). [60] Rodgers and others (n 49); Daniel Maul, ‘“Help Them Move the ILO Way”: The International Labor Organization and the Modernization Discourse in the Era of Decolonization and the Cold War’ (2009) 33(3) Diplomatic History 387. [61] Makau Mutua, ‘Savages, Victims, and Saviors: A Metaphor of Human Rights’ (2001) 42(1) Harvard International Law Journal 202. [62] Kabeer (n 21). See ‘Perpetuating the Gendered Disadvantage’. [63] Valerian DeSouza, ‘Modernizing the Colonial Labor Subject in India’ (2010) 12(2) CLCWeb: Comparative Literature and Culture <> accessed 8 December 2021. [64] ibid. [65] ‘Decolonizing Labour Law: A Conversation with Professor Adelle Blackett’ (TWAILR: Dialogues, 24 January 2021) <> accessed 7 June 2022. [66] McCarthy, Soundararajan and Taylor (n 46).


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