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http://ssrn.com/abstract=1978908
 
 

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Production Goes Global, Standards Stay Local: Private Labor Regulation in the Global Electronics Industry


Richard M. Locke


Brown University; Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Political Science

Greg Distelhorst


University of Toronto - Rotman School of Management; Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Political Science

Timea Pal


Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Political Science

Hiram M. Samel


Said Business School, University of Oxford

January 3, 2012

MIT Political Science Department Research Paper No. 2012-1

Abstract:     
Subcontracting relationships in globalized production networks are claimed to depress labor standards in developing countries. These concerns have led to the emergence of private voluntary initiatives aimed at regulating labor and environmental practices in international supply chains. How effective are these initiatives and to what extent can they replace traditional, state-led regulation of the workplace? Is variation in their efficacy consistent with the claim that arms-length exchange harms labor rights? We address these questions by studying Hewlett Packard’s (HP) supply chain compliance program through quantitative and qualitative analysis of audit records, interviews with managers at both HP and its suppliers, and field research at production facilities located in seven countries. We find HP’s program produced improvements in many areas but that the national context of governance remains the strongest predictor of improved working conditions in the supply chain. However, we also find that producers of commoditized goods, subject to greater market pressure in supply chain transactions, improve more in key areas than producers of specialized goods. Contrary to prevailing assumptions about globalization and labor standards, power disparities in subcontracting can actually incentivize better labor practices in suppliers.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 51

Keywords: Transnational governance, globalization, labor standards, corporate social responsibility

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Date posted: January 3, 2012 ; Last revised: July 31, 2012

Suggested Citation

Locke, Richard M. and Distelhorst, Greg and Pal, Timea and Samel, Hiram M., Production Goes Global, Standards Stay Local: Private Labor Regulation in the Global Electronics Industry (January 3, 2012). MIT Political Science Department Research Paper No. 2012-1. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1978908 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1978908

Contact Information

Richard M. Locke (Contact Author)
Brown University ( email )
111 Thayer Street
Box 1970
Providence, RI 02912-1970
United States
(401) 863-3596 (Phone)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Political Science ( email )
77 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02139
United States
Greg Distelhorst
University of Toronto - Rotman School of Management ( email )
105 St. George Street
Toronto, Ontario M5S 3E6
Canada
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Political Science ( email )
77 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02139
United States

Timea Pal
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Political Science ( email )
77 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02139
United States

Hiram M. Samel
Said Business School, University of Oxford ( email )
HOME PAGE: http://www.sbs.ox.ac.uk/community/people/hiram-samel
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