Business, Human Rights and State Capacity to Regulate in Asia

Project: ResearchGRF

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This project examines the regulatory framework for employment relations within four Asian countries to explain what factors help to promote (or inhibit) the development of labour standards established by the United Nations (UN), including the International Labour Organisation (ILO). In particular, the research explains how global North and international legal and voluntary attempts to regulate production in the Global South impact the actual regulatory regime in four Asian countries with differing levels of internal control. The initial hypothesis is that countries which have strong internal control will be more able to enforce a legal framework for employment relations but less amenable to voluntary codes. Conversely, countries which have weaker, more pluralistic regimes, will have more complex and chaotic application of standards, but also more agility in adapting to new standards and practices. In practice, it is expected the patterns may be more complex. Global commodity production and distribution networks operate within tremendously complex regulatory environments. This complexity affects both the firms operating within supply chains and the governments in whose countries labour is employed to work within these chains. The United Nations’ agreement called Global Compact further emphasised a responsibility on Multinational Corporations (MNCs) to obey local regulations whilst also committing themselves to promote voluntary codes of best practice. This regularly environment is hugely complex, with numerous regulatory initiators’, differing content, efficacy, forms of monitoring and enforcement. Add to this, incentives to attract foreign investment, such as free trade zones where some laws are suspended, developing legislative, judicial and monitoring systems, and developing countries of the Global South struggle to organise a coherent regulatory regime. Moreover, they complain that outsiders, be they foreign courts, government administrations, UN bodies, MNCs, non-government organisations (NGOs), or foreign and international labour unions, blame them when things go wrong. This research addresses this complexity, mapping the various forms of regulations, monitoring and enforcement at the level of individual counties that have traditionally made up the Global South. The four countries in this research, Bangladesh, Cambodia, China and Vietnam, represent comparisons of these complexities at several levels, including political system (elected or authoritarian governments), degree of reliance on international capital and/ or industrial sector and depth of relations with relevant UN organisations. The research involves documentary analysis from those produced by all forms of organisations relevant to the employment practices in the cases, together with interviews and review of legal judgements.


Effective start/end date1/01/18 → …