Global production networks, trade and labour

The challenge:

Global production networks (GPNs) account for more than 80% of global trade, involving a range of firm and non-firm actors engaged in the production of goods and services from raw materials to final consumption.

The emergence of global production networks, or global value chains, raises various challenges for sustainable production and consumption. Existing inequalities may be reinforced as transnational and public governance struggles to regulate and control flows that cross national borders. Farmers and firms must meet stringent barriers to entry within global production networks, and face difficulties in moving out of lower value-added activities to capture the gains.

Workers often face extremely difficult everyday conditions producing goods and services for major companies in global markets. Upgrading be it economic improvements or for workers or the environment is a key goal, but is often elusive and can involve trade-offs.

How we are addressing it:

The organisation of global production is undergoing significant evolution, under the influence of rising powers and more polycentric trade patterns, new technologies such as digitisation, and the challenges of sustainable development.  Our research focuses on:

  • Shifting geographies of production: Rather than emphasizing North-South oriented production networks, contemporary polycentric trade involves overlapping, multiple production networks oriented towards different end markets –across both global North and South.
  • The 4th Industrial Revolution: The digitisation of production and the combinations of multiple technological advances will potentially transform global production networks, with a growing significance for technological platforms, more localized production, as well as new entry barriers.
  • Sustainability: While initial research on GPNs took a firm-centric and economic approach, more recently progress has been made in moving beyond such approaches to research on GPNs by incorporating labour and environmental concerns.

Research Projects

Our teaching agenda:

People and publications:

Click on the names below to read their latest publications or read the latest publications from the Global Development Institute.

This group works closely with colleagues from Geography and the Alliance Manchester Business School.

PhD Researchers and Post-Doctoral Fellows

  • Jeongseong Lee - A comparative study of the EU and China’s policy in foreign aid
  • Mariana Lopez Rodriguez - Global Feminist Production Networks: a study of feminine hygiene products
  • Beletchei Ebia
  • Yuna Lee - A New Normative Labour in Global Production Network: The dynamics of employment relationship in the Vietnamese textiles and apparel industry

News and insights: