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Keywords:

  • working conditions;
  • enforcement;
  • labour laws;
  • female workers;
  • gender and trade

Abstract

This study examines labour standards enforcement and compliance in two Asian economies (Bangladesh and Cambodia) that have amongst the lowest labour costs in the world but are experiencing strong pressures to improve the price competitiveness of their textile and garment exports. Analysis of survey, focus group and inspection data indicate differing trajectories in compliance with basic labour standards. While extremely low wages and poor working conditions have persisted in Bangladesh, compliance has begun to improve in Cambodia following a trade agreement with the United States that linked positive trade incentives with labour standards enforcement. These contrasting experiences suggest that in less developed countries, governments consider trade-linked schemes to achieve improvements in working conditions without hindering export growth or job growth. Copyright © 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.