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Relational Contracting at the Bottom of Global Garment Value Chains: Lessons from Mewat

Meenu Tewari

The Indian Journal of Labour Economics, 2017, vol. 60, issue 2, No 2, 137-154

Abstract: Abstract How can labour standards be diffused beyond formal factories to those involved in informal work in the lowest tiers of global subcontracting? This question has vexed analysts and policy-makers in the face of broad agreement that private voluntary regulation is not enough to reach the most vulnerable workers in global value chains. This paper documents an alternative arrangement of relational ties at the base of the global garment chain in Mewat, India. The arrangement involved a novel place-based partnership between a leading global buyer, Gap Inc., the government, exporters, local home-based embroidery workers and an embedded nonprofit that connected them all. This networked contracting system helped secure, for a period of time, good working conditions, decent wages and improved livelihoods for previously unprotected workers. The experiment’s success however bred its own challenges and the network continues to transform. The case highlights two points: first, that focusing beyond the factory-floor, on workers in place based territorial labour markets might be an important complement to sectoral strategies of workforce protection. Second, the case also suggests that diffusing good labour standards down and beyond firms within value chains will require an active and mediating role of the decentralized state. Such a state both regulates, learns and collaborates, and holds open a space for relational mediation among firms, labour, and civic actors to jointly reach workers in the lowest tiers of global subcontracting systems.

Keywords: Global value chains; Labour protections; Home based workers; Garment industry (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2017
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DOI: 10.1007/s41027-017-0094-z

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