Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs

Journal Analyzes Globalization's Impact on Workers of the World

August 2, 2010

The impact of globalization on workers in developing countries is analyzed in a new special issue of Studies in Comparative International Development (SCID), a journal edited at the Watson Institute.

The issue looks at potentially conflicting demands on developing countries from such international institutions as the International Labor Organization and World Bank for better labor standards (including the right to bargain collectively) and more labor flexibility (including limitations on the role of trade unions).

New indices for both standards and flexibility have been constructed as part of the project and used to compare four world regions: East Asia, Eastern Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East.

The results reported in the special issue, titled “Global Pressures, National Response, and Labor Rights in Developing Countries,” suggest that global institutions have had an important influence on each region’s labor markets, but in different ways and to different degrees. And “domestic political structures and processes have been at least as important as external influences in determining labor market characteristics,” according to Institute Professor and SCID Editor Barbara Stallings.  “The era of attributing overwhelming dominance to the industrial countries or international financial institutions or multinational corporations is long over,” Stallings adds, and yet these external pressures continue to have important direct and indirect effects on workers’ well-being.

The issue is dedicated to the late Marsha Pripstein Posusney, a member of SCID’s editorial collective and co-author of its chapter on the Middle East. A tribute recognizes her life’s work, including authorship of the award-winning Labor and the State in Egypt: Workers, Unions, and Economic Restructuring (Columbia University Press, 1998).

Among the issue’s other contributors from Brown are Watson Institute Adjunct Associate Professor Katrina Burgess, Political Science Associate Professor Melani Cammett, and Political Science Professor Linda J. Cook.