These are established by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and must be voluntarily adopted by the signatory countries to become part of the law. They include issues such as prohibitions on slavery and child labor. Of all the debates surrounding globalization, one of the most controversial has to do with trade and workers' rights. Workers' rights advocates argue that trading nations must be subject to strict labor standards and offer two very different justifications for their views.
The first is a moral argument whose premise is that many labour standards, such as freedom of association and the prohibition of forced labour, protect basic human rights. Foreign nations that want to be granted free access to the world's largest and richest markets must be required to observe fundamental human values, including labor rights. In short, the attractiveness of access to the markets of the United States and the European Union should be used to broaden the scope of human rights. The key consideration here is the effectiveness of labor standards policies.
Will human rights improve among potential trading partners? Or will they delay progress towards human rights by keeping politically powerless workers in poverty? Some countries, including China, may reject otherwise attractive trade agreements that contain applicable labor standards. By insisting on strict labor standards, rich democracies could claim moral superiority. But they may have to give up a trade pact that could help their own producers and consumers, while increasing the incomes and political power of impoverished Chinese workers. The second argument in favor of strict labor standards does not emphasize the welfare of the working poor, but on the simple economic self-interest.
A trading partner who fails to enforce basic protections for its workers may gain an unfair trade advantage, increasing its competitiveness in the market compared to countries with stronger labor safeguards. Including labor standards in trade agreements can encourage countries in a free trade area to maintain worker protection rather than abandon them in a race to the bottom. If each country must observe a common set of minimum standards, member countries can offer and enforce worker protections at a near-optimal level. This second argument, unlike the first, can be evaluated with theory and economic evidence.
Evaluating these arguments requires answering three questions. First, what labor standards are important to the U.S. UU. Trade and foreign policy? Secondly, how can labor standards be enforced, once negotiated? Finally, does it make sense to insist that our trading partners adhere to a common set of core labor standards? and if so, what rules? What are the most important labor standards? While the international community broadly agrees on the need to respect labor standards, the agreement does not extend to what those standards should be.
Forced labor and slavery are considered almost universally repugnant, but other labor safeguards considered vital in the world's richest countries are not widely observed elsewhere. The International Labour Organization, created by the Treaty of Versailles after World War I, has published labor standards in dozens of areas, but has identified eight essential core standards (see box on page 1, most of which relate to basic human rights). Of the 175 member countries of the ILO, an overwhelming majority have ratified most of the eight standards. More than 150 have ratified the four dealing with forced labour and discrimination in employment and wages.
Washington has ratified only two standards, one that abolished forced labor and the other that eliminates the worst forms of child labor, placing the United States in the company of only eight ILO member countries, including China, Myanmar and Oman. Many labor standards advocates would expand the ILO's core list of protections to cover workplace safety, working conditions and wages. The Trade Act 1974 defines “internationally recognized workers' rights” to include “acceptable working conditions with respect to minimum wages, working hours and occupational safety and health. The University of Michigan, for example, obliges producers of badge-wearing goods to respect ILO core standards and also requires them to pay a minimum wage and provide a “safe and healthy work environment.”.
Labor standards that could be covered by a trade agreement fall along a continuum, from those that focus on basic human rights to those that emphasize working and wage conditions. In general, the case of the former is more persuasive. Insisting that other nations respect the right of free association of workers reflects our moral vision that this right is fundamental to human dignity. Workers may also have the “right to a safe and healthy workplace,” but that right has some cost to productive efficiency.
Insisting that other nations adopt American standards for a safe and healthy workplace means that they must also embrace our vision of the appropriate trade-off between health and safety, on the one hand, and productive efficiency, on the other. The main global institution that enforces labor standards today is the ILO, which regularly and regularly reports on the measures taken by each nation to implement the standards it has ratified. If complaints are filed, the ILO investigates the alleged violation and publishes its findings. Even if a member country has not ratified freedom of association conventions, the ILO can investigate alleged violations of those conventions.
However, the ILO cannot authorize retaliatory trade measures or sanctions. Instead, it provides technical assistance to member countries to comply with their labor laws and enforcement procedures. While the work of the ILO has been recognized with a Nobel Peace Prize, many worker supporters are skeptical that it can protect workers who use its existing enforcement tools, as they impose few sanctions other than bad publicity. Labour advocates favor strengthening enforcement by expanding the role of the World Trade Organization or using bilateral trade agreements.
WTO rules do not apply to labor standards; they govern members' treatment of goods, services and intellectual property of other member countries. In these areas, the WTO has developed complex dispute resolution procedures to investigate complaints. If a WTO panel determines that a member country has violated WTO rules, it can allow the complaining country to retaliate. At the 1996 WTO ministerial meeting, developing countries strongly resisted efforts to allow the WTO to apply labour standards, and the meeting concluded by affirming the ILO's role in determining and dealing with labour standards.
Similarly, when President Clinton and some EU leaders tried to include workers' rights in the next round of multilateral trade negotiations at the WTO ministerial meeting in Seattle in 1999, developing countries rejected the initiative. The AFL-CIO has supported the labor provisions of Jordan's trade pact, while the United States,. The Chamber of Commerce has denounced them. The House is in favor of free trade agreements and fears that most countries will be reluctant to include applicable labor standards in any new agreement.
This point of view is almost certainly correct, at least in the developing world. Some Americans may fear that the inclusion of enforceable labor standards in trade agreements will expose the United States to the accusation that it does not enforce core ILO standards, exposing it to potential trade sanctions. Labour and civil rights laws already contain the fundamental protections required by ILO conventions. Two of the ILO's most problematic standards relate to child labour.
Rich countries very sensibly restrict children's participation in the labor market so that young people can attend school and prepare to become workers. However, in poor countries, where children's income is a crucial family resource and schooling may not be available, restrictions may not be appropriate. Of course, children in poor countries also deserve protection and education, but the level of protection and resources available for education will be far below those of a rich country. A standard of protection that is appropriate in rich countries can impose excessive burdens on the poor.
Third world leaders understandably fear that the inclusion of applicable labour standards in trade agreements will expose their countries to a constant challenge in the WTO and that the standards will be used primarily to protect workers and enterprises in developed countries from competition from third party workers. world. AFL-CIO President John Sweeney Denies Enforcing Labor Standards Can Have Protectionist Impact. ILO standards, he notes, are designed to protect the interests of workers in low- and high-income countries.
WTO and United States Strongly Defend Intellectual Property (IP) Rights and Implement Trade Sanctions When Developing Countries Violate Those Rights. Extending the same protections to workers' rights, he reasons, cannot be protectionist. If the WTO is to be used to assess sanctions against countries that violate international labor standards, its member countries must devise a new way of assigning sanctions for violations. Under current procedures, a country found to have a valid trade complaint may retaliate against the offending country by withholding a trade benefit approximately equivalent to the benefit denied by the violator as a result of the violation of WTO rules.
It is not obvious how to calculate the penalty when the violation involves a labor standard. There, the injury has been sustained by workers in the offending country, and residents of the claimant country may have enjoyed a net benefit. Suppose, for example, that the United States accuses another country of employing underage children in its clothing industry. The violation increases the supply of low-wage workers in the offending country, thus reducing the wage costs of producers and the prices charged to domestic and foreign consumers.
Adult workers in the offending country have clearly suffered injuries, as have children if their work has deprived them of schooling that would otherwise be available. As a final option to enforce labor standards, U.S. consumers can apply their own private sanctions. Anyone who deems child labor or forced labor reprehensible may refuse to buy products manufactured in countries that tolerate such practices.
ILO could encourage consumers to act by publishing information on offending countries and their violations. It could also publicize the refusal of any country to cooperate with ILO investigations. If voters want more information on goods and services imported from countries that meet ILO standards, their own national governments can provide it. Washington can help U.S.
consumers increase pressure on offending countries by requiring sellers to label products with country of origin. It could also encourage or require vendors to identify goods and services produced in countries that fully comply with ILO core labor standards. Should Uncle Sam enforce labor standards? The argument for enforcing labor standards is strongest when it involves basic human rights, such as freedom of association or freedom from slavery, and when it is based on moral grounds rather than economic calculations. If Washington wants to demand that its trading partners respect basic human rights, it must be prepared to accept the real costs it will impose on its own producers and consumers and, occasionally, on the victims abroad whom it is trying to help.
Economic theory and evidence can be useful in calculating the potential cost of trade sanctions for the United States and its trading partners. It is not useful in determining whether potential human rights benefits are worth the sacrifice of income. The social sciences are also not very informative about whether a trade sanctions policy is likely to improve victims' rights. The most reliable way to improve the condition of third-world workers is to increase their average productivity.
Concerned voters in rich countries can help make this happen by pushing to open their own markets to third world products. Many low-income countries have a comparative advantage in the manufacture of clothing, textiles and footwear and in the production of staple foods, fruits and vegetables. Rich countries often impose high tariffs or quotas on these products, and almost all of them provide generous subsidies to their farmers, thus denying third world producers and farmers access to a huge potential market. The World Bank believes that tariff and non-tariff barriers, together with subsidies lavished on the United States,.
And European farmers cost third world countries more in loss of trade than in foreign aid. If we insist that developing countries immediately meet the labor standards that the richest countries achieved only gradually, we will keep some of them out of the best markets in the world. Poor countries that agree to abide by ILO standards are sometimes challenged, sometimes by representatives of rich countries more determined to protect their own workers from “unfair” competition abroad than to improve the lot of third-world workers. While the moral argument for requiring our trading partners to respect labor rights is compelling, the argument for removing trade barriers that limit product markets and the incomes of the world's poorest workers is just as powerful.
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by phone, chat or email. To Grow, Evolve, and Inspire, We Must Participate in Continuous Learning. The International Labour Organization (ILO) is the only UN,. Agency since 1919, bringing together governments, employers and workers from 187 member states to establish labor standards, develop policies and design programs that promote decent work for all women and men.
The main focus of the ILO revolves around the promotion of rights at work, the promotion of decent employment opportunities, the improvement of social protections and the strengthening of dialogue on issues related to. The ILO's unique tripartite structure is able to provide an equal voice for workers, employers and governments to ensure that the views of the social partners are closely reflected in labour standards and in the shaping of policies and programmes. Confirm that you want to proceed with the removal of the bookmark. Log in as a SHRM member before saving bookmarks.
Log in as a SHRM member. Purchase a SHRM membership before saving bookmarks. Extend your toolbox with the tools and techniques needed to solve your organization's unique needs. International labor standards are embedded in a number of international organizations and institutions.
And European labor standards are much higher, and labor regulation is applied more rigorously than it was 50 years ago. In addition to national legislation regulating child labor, many international human and labour rights standards focus on the issue of child labor. Deloitte refers to one or more of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited (“DTTL”), its global network of member firms and its related entities (collectively, the “Deloitte organization”). If Using Child Labor Abroad Lowers the Cost of Imports, Americans Spend Less on Clothing Than They Would Have Spent Otherwise.
Labor advocates favor strengthening enforcement by expanding the role of the World Trade Organization or using bilateral trade agreements. . .