Rising Powers, Labour Standards and the Governance of Global Production Networks.

Project Details


The global economy is being transformed by the ‘Rising Powers’ – especially China, India and Brazil. One aspect of this transformation is how these economies are engaging with and potentially shaping, the rules that govern international trade and global production, in particular global labour and social standards. For the developing world, meeting international standards is increasingly critical. We are now more aware about the food we eat and how it came to our plates, or whether what we wear implied sweatshop labour. Yet, gains from compliance – especially for workers and poor producers – remain unclear. Expanding trade between the RP economies, their growing domestic consumer markets and the emergence of leading firms from China, India and Brazil raise questions on how global standards will be shaped in the future, who the key drivers will be, and what implications arise for workers in both these emerging economies and throughout the global economy.

This 3 year project, funded by the UK’s Economic and Social Research Council, involves comparative study in Brazil, China and India of leading RP firms and small firm clusters as well as State and civil society organisations. The research will draw on mixed on mixed methods approaches, including quantitative and qualitative data, to address the following questions:

First, how do rising power firms work with, challenge and modify global labour and social standards which their global value chains?

Second, how do civil society actors shape attitudes, norms and values on social standards?

Third, how does the State in Brazil, China and India regulate on labour and engage in the international institutions where trade rules on labour and social standards are defined?

Fourth, what are the consequences of these developments for:
Competitiveness of RP lead firms and the organisation of global ties?
For firms and states in OECD and developing economies?
For future trajectories of global and social standards?
For national and global policy actors
Short titleR:HDD HDZ/Nadvi/300911
Effective start/end date1/04/1330/09/17

Collaborative partners

  • The University of Manchester (lead)
  • Gujarat Institute of Development Research (GIDR) (Sub-contractor)
  • Centre for Responsible Business (Sub-contractor)
  • City University Of Hong Kong (Sub-contractor)
  • RSM Erasmus University of Rotterdam (Sub-contractor)
  • East China Normal University (Collaborator)
  • Xi'an Jiaotong-Liverpool University (Sub-contractor)

UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This project contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 8 - Decent Work and Economic Growth
  • SDG 12 - Responsible Consumption and Production

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Global inequalities
  • Global Development Institute


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