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An International Regulatory Framework for National Employment Policies

Christian Häberli

Papers from World Trade Institute

Abstract: Reprinted from Journal of World Trade, volume no. 50, issue number no. 2 (2016), pages 167–192, with permission of Kluwer Law International: Employment-related policies are sensitive by any standard, and they remain basically national despite international labour standards (ILS) being even older than the United Nations. Globalization is changing this situation where countries may have to choose between ‘more’ or ‘better’ jobs. The multilateral framework of the World Trade Organization (WTO) can only have an indirect impact. But Regional Trade Agreements (RTA) and International Investment Agreements (IIA) are emerging as a new way of gradually enhancing the impact of certain labour standards. In addition, unilateral measures both by governments and importers driven by social and environmental consumer preferences and pressure groups increasingly shape the international regulatory framework for national employment policies. Even small, locally operating enterprises risk marginalization and market exclusion by ignoring these developments. The long-term influence of this new ‘network approach’ on employment-related policies, including job location, gender issues, social coherence and migration remains to be seen. Nonetheless, the still flimsy evidence gathered here seems to indicate that this new, international framework might increase sustainable employment where and when supporting measures, including through unilateral preferences and even sanctions, form a ‘cocktail’ which export-oriented industries and their suppliers will find palatable.

Date: 2016-04-01
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