In This Review

Globalization and Labor Conditions: Working Conditions and Worker Rights in a Global Economy
Globalization and Labor Conditions: Working Conditions and Worker Rights in a Global Economy
By Robert J. Flanagan
Oxford University Press, 2006, 272 pp
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In this impressively argued, empirically supported analysis of the evolution of working conditions in today's world, the Stanford economist Flanagan addresses the contention, advanced aggressively in political discussions, that globalization worsens the conditions of labor, spurring a "race to the bottom." Based on analyses of 30 years of data from many countries, Flanagan concludes that, to the contrary, the three economic dimensions of globalization -- greater foreign trade, foreign direct investment, and international migration -- are associated with improved working conditions (higher wages, fewer hours of work, fewer accidents at work) and improved workers' rights (less child labor, greater freedom of association, less forced labor); open economies have significantly better working conditions than more closed economies. Although he does not oppose increased regulation on behalf of labor at the national or international level, Flanagan is skeptical, on the basis of the evidence, that such regulation will by itself improve the conditions of the average worker. Too often, it improves the circumstances of some workers while worsening the circumstances of others. His book offers the general advice that any proposed policy action should be evaluated on the basis of whether it enhances or narrows the opportunities available to workers. Expanded opportunities, such as those created by greater economic growth, are more likely to succeed in improving working conditions.