Rethinking Global Labor Standards: Controversies, Constraints, and Possibilities

Rethinking Global Labor Standards: Controversies, Constraints, and Possibilities James Heintz Most people worldwide rely on their own labor to generate income for themselves and their families. Employment is central to our economic survival. However, simply having access to employment is not enough. The quality of employment varies enormously, both within and across countries, and there is no guarantee that paid employment will generate sufficient income to meet basic needs, provide adequate savings for unforeseen emergencies, and sustain the material and emotional well-being of working people. Labor standards have been used to set basic benchmarks of decency: protecting the rights of workers and defining the conditions under which labor can be exchanged. However, as developing countries continue to become increasingly integrated into the world economy, the relevance of labor standards for many of the world's low-income workers has been called into question--do labor standards actually help vulnerable workers and, if not, might they do more harm than good? This paper argues that labor standards--as they have been traditionally conceived and implemented--may be increasingly limited in their ability to protect working people. Specifically, old models--in which national governments regulate formal, wage employment for their citizens--are insufficient and may be biased against vulnerable groups, including women working in informal http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png The Good Society Penn State University Press

Rethinking Global Labor Standards: Controversies, Constraints, and Possibilities

The Good Society, Volume 16 (2) – Jul 23, 2008

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Publisher
Penn State University Press
Copyright
Copyright © 2008 The Pennsylvania State University
ISSN
1538-9731
Publisher site
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Abstract

James Heintz Most people worldwide rely on their own labor to generate income for themselves and their families. Employment is central to our economic survival. However, simply having access to employment is not enough. The quality of employment varies enormously, both within and across countries, and there is no guarantee that paid employment will generate sufficient income to meet basic needs, provide adequate savings for unforeseen emergencies, and sustain the material and emotional well-being of working people. Labor standards have been used to set basic benchmarks of decency: protecting the rights of workers and defining the conditions under which labor can be exchanged. However, as developing countries continue to become increasingly integrated into the world economy, the relevance of labor standards for many of the world's low-income workers has been called into question--do labor standards actually help vulnerable workers and, if not, might they do more harm than good? This paper argues that labor standards--as they have been traditionally conceived and implemented--may be increasingly limited in their ability to protect working people. Specifically, old models--in which national governments regulate formal, wage employment for their citizens--are insufficient and may be biased against vulnerable groups, including women working in informal

Journal

The Good SocietyPenn State University Press

Published: Jul 23, 2008

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