Good for the Goose, Bad for the Gander: International Labor Standards and Comparative Development
Posted: 17 May 2006
The international labor rights movement, led by the International Labour Organization (ILO), argues that developing countries are currently ready for more stringent labor standards. This paper investigates this claim by examining the timing of labor standard adoption in highly developed countries. These nations were all once as poor as today's developing countries and made the tradeoff between labor standards and income at some point in their past. Their experience therefore suggests a safe income threshold for adopting similar labor standards in the developing world. We find that every ILO-proposed labor standard is highly premature for the developing countries of Sub-Saharan Africa. These countries are between 100 and 300 years from reaching this threshold. ILO-proposed policy is exactly backward. A substantial relaxation of labor standards is the appropriate labor policy for this part of the developing world.
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