Looking in the Wrong Places?: Labor Standards and Upstream Business Practices in the Global Electronics Industry

49 Pages Posted: 10 Jul 2012 Last revised: 3 Aug 2012

See all articles by Richard Locke

Richard Locke

Brown University

Hiram M. Samel

Said Business School, University of Oxford

Date Written: July 7, 2012


Despite decades of debate and efforts to improve global labor standards, multiple problems still persist. Whether arguing for a more active role for the state, persuading firms to adopt codes of conduct, improving monitoring and sanctioning processes or seeking a higher degree of commitment between supply chain actors, scholars still lack an adequate explanation for why labor problems do not show improvement. Existing theories, while they will help, are not sufficient to solve this issue because they are focused on the production side of markets — the result both of an intellectual and policy bias towards production and the tendency to look for solutions where problems occur. Using a case study of Hewlett-Packard’s (HP) supply chain, qualitative and quantitative data from field visits to plants in South East Asia and a unique dataset of HP’s code of conduct audits, we demonstrate that even under the most-likely conditions that favor previous theories of labor standards, code of conduct violations, in particular excess working hours, exhibit widespread persistence. Having explained this, we demonstrate that this persistence is the product of a set of policies and practices designed and implemented upstream by global buyers and their lead suppliers

Keywords: Volatility, globalization, labor standards, private regulation, corporate social responsibility, electronics, production networks, global supply chains

Suggested Citation

Locke, Richard and Samel, Hiram M., Looking in the Wrong Places?: Labor Standards and Upstream Business Practices in the Global Electronics Industry (July 7, 2012). MIT Political Science Department Research Paper No. 2012-18, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2102634 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2102634

Richard Locke

Brown University ( email )

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Hiram M. Samel (Contact Author)

Said Business School, University of Oxford ( email )

HOME PAGE: http://www.sbs.ox.ac.uk/community/people/hiram-samel

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