The Employment Footprints of Nations

Uncovering Master-Servant Relationships


  • Ali Alsamawi,

    Corresponding author
    • Address correspondence to: Ali Alsamawi, Integrated Sustainability Analysis, The University of Sydney, Room 501, School of Physics A28, Physics Road, Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia. Email:

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  • Joy Murray,

  • Manfred Lenzen


In this study, we present an analysis of the average wages paid for producing direct and indirect imports of nations using employment and income footprints. An employment footprint includes a country's domestic employment and that occurring along the supply chains of, and hence embodied in, its imported goods and services. Our results allow us to group the world's nations into “masters” that enjoy a lifestyle supported by workers in other countries and “servants” that support the lifestyle of master countries. We show that, in 2010, employment footprints of countries differed substantially from their own workforce footprints. Hong Kong, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates, and Switzerland occupy the top-ranking positions of master countries, whereas many African and Asian countries are servants. Our findings show that the commodities that are “servant intensive,” such as electronics, agricultural products, and chemicals, tend to have complex supply chains often originating in third-world countries. The quantification of these master-servant relationships and the exposing of implicated supply chains could be of benefit to those concerned with their corporate social responsibility and committed to fairer trading or those developing policy around fair globalization.