Globalization and the Pursuit of Decent Work: Can the ILO Deliver?

10 Pages Posted: 18 Oct 2014 Last revised: 28 Nov 2018

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: October 16, 2014


Whether globalization is a relatively recent development or not, it appears that as nations and nongovernmental organizations focus on international competitiveness and the correlative commitment to liberalization and privatization, and the acceptance of interdependencies and integrations among the world’s major economies, these moves have consequences. Taken together with (1) the pursuit of trade liberalization by the West (the quest for open markets for Western products and capital markets), (2) increased international inequalities with respect to capital stock and flows favoring the richest countries, (3) the simultaneous rise in trade protection that reduces or constrains access by developing countries to Western markets, and (4) the incipient and growing emphasis on technology and innovation by many countries and firms including the emergence of information and communication technologies (ICT) including the world wide web and the internet, the prospect of inequality in relationships and income advances.

On the other hand, globalization has been accompanied by the instantiation of new institutions coupled with renewed attention being given to existing intergovernmental institutions such as the International Labor Organization that are designed to deal with problems that are either initiated or exacerbated by globalization. Given the difficult economic currents percolating throughout the world, many analysts suggest that the “real question is how labor law can respond to the challenges presented by globalization. In order to promote an efficacious labor law...[it is argued that a] new global goal should be added to the labor law agenda – decent work with a living wage.” The ILO program is advanced around the world through its promotion of “decent work,” an apparently ambiguous slogan calculated to level income inequalities within and between nations. It is the objective of this paper to briefly explore the promise, possibilities and failures of the ILO in an era that apparently features an increasing acceptance by elite opinion formers, banks and financial institutions, and Western world leaders of the presumed value and presumed legitimacy of increased trade integration.

Keywords: decent work, globalization, inequality, International Labor Organization, international labor standards, labor law, living wage, minimum wage, nongovernmental organizations, OECD, Russia, South Africa, United States

JEL Classification: J31, K31

Suggested Citation

Hutchison, Harry G., Globalization and the Pursuit of Decent Work: Can the ILO Deliver? (October 16, 2014). George Mason Law & Economics Research Paper No. 14-51, Available at SSRN: or

Harry G. Hutchison (Contact Author)

Regent University - School of Law ( email )

1000 Regent University Drive
Virginia Beach, VA 23464
United States

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