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Global Development Institute

New GDI research project asks whether regional value chains undermine decent work, or promote labour standards

4 September 2018

The rise of South-South trade, involving Southern lead firms and end markets, raises a critical challenge for global governance: how can Southern markets be more effectively aligned with ethical and social standards that result in decent work outcomes?

A new research project, led by Professor Stephanie Barrientos will seek to answer this question, by investigating the role of value chains in promoting decent work in Sub-Saharan Africa.

This £790,000 project, funded by the ESRC will examine the implications of regional and domestic value chains in the Global South for public-private governance and regulation of decent work in global production. 

The research focuses on sourcing by South African and Kenyan retailers of horticulture and garments from South Africa, Lesotho and Kenya. It assesses the implications for attaining decent work, especially for precarious female workers. It examines whether the spread of regional value chains imply greater commercial challenges for labour, or could provide a channel for enhancing public-private governance of decent work.

Researchers from the University of Manchester, Professor Stephanie Barrientos, Professor Khalid Nadvi and Dr Matthew Alford,  will work alongside colleagues from The University of Cape Town, The University of Nairobi, as well as the Ethical Trading Initiative

The project has key policy implications for the potential development of Southern-based multi-stakeholder public-private 'ethical trade platforms' to support Sustainable Development Goal 8 (SDG8) on decent work.

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