Professor K's article_Outline - Professor Ks Article -...

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We argue for a new role for national governments based on soft rather than hard regulation approaches. We argue that this new role shows potential for significantly enhancing progress in international labor standards, since it enables governments to articulate a position without having to deal with the enforcement issues that hard regulation mandates. But we feel that national governments should not be seen only as the source of the problem but should be included as part of the solution. It is national governments (and by extension regional, sub-regional and local governments) who have more resources and better access to reach all types of workers and workplaces in different industrial sectors. Basically, the current international pressure to improve labor standards stems from the fundamental failure of national governments to enforce their own labor laws. The Linkage of Labor Standards with Trade: First, proponents argue that core labor standards ought to be seen as fundamental human rights. This altruistic concern for workers in poor countries tends to rise with increases in per capita income however, since this concern is evident mostly in very wealthy countries of North America and Western Europe. Second, proponents argue that such a linkage will prevent an “international race to the bottom”. The argument here is that low labor standards will increase third world competitiveness, leading to a loss of jobs and deindustrialization in the developed countries, and in this form to a competitive devaluation of labor standards through out the world. Third, proponents argue that the legitimacy of the international trading system (which is seen as a cause of widening inequality and competitive devaluation of standards) is at stake here and enhancing the legitimacy of free trade requires a connected commitment and mechanism to increase labor standards. Fourth, proponents argue that following a core set of labor standards will increase living standards all over the world. Fifth, some argue that forcing all countries to follow core labor standards could be efficiency enhancing in the long run. For example, abolishing child labor or extremely “cheap” labor (via no labor standards) could yield to increased substitution of capital for labor (thus increasing efficiency) but also leads to better longer term investment in human resources (as those “child” workers receive better education), thus increasing long term efficiency as well. Sixth, some argue that linking labor standards to trade would defuse the protectionist stance that
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Professor K's article_Outline - Professor Ks Article -...

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