Missing the Link: A Gendered Perspective on Labour Regulation in Global Value Chains

Ann Stewart

Abstract


This paper argues that feminist scholarship has a aluable contribution to make to GVC analysis. It builds on the approach develoepd in my recent monograph, Gender, Law and Justice in a Global Market (Cambridge UP, 2011), to consider the way in which contextually specific 'gender contracts' relating to responsibilities for work and care contribute to the way in which women engage with labour markets. Women's association with the socially reproductive sphere contributes to the risks they face as well as the flexibility they embody. Feminist critiques of labour law which address the way in which it constructs boundaries between unvalued, unregulated social reproductive activiteis and employment have particular resonance for GVC analysis with its concern to trace the way in which each stage in the process of production (including formal and informal working) contributes to the distribution of value and the creation of risk for workers. These critiques have also revealed the gendered consequences of the commercialisation of labour relationships associated with the provision of services particularly in relation to body work and the challenges these developments pose for the conceptual basis for labour law. However the paper extends its analysis to address the generalised private standard setting which has emerged as governance at firm level and the macroeconomic regulatory contexts that contribute to the distribution of value within the chains. The international women's rights movement in conjunction with labour activists have developed a framework for implementation of increasingly substantive rights for women. If national economic policies are increasingly dominated by global and regional trade regimes on the one hand and governance through private standards on the other, what happens to any wider state-based gender strategy? Is there transference of 'rights' discourse from the state and incorporation into the market governance of trade and private standard setting? The paper therefore argues that bringing gender into the social context is essential.

Keywords


global value chains; gender analysis; labour law; social reproduction; body work; care work; market governance

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