Opening the 'Black Box': Transnational Private Certification of Labor Standards in China
Indiana University Research Center for Chinese Politics and Business, RCCPB Working Paper #18
34 Pages Posted: 1 Nov 2012
Date Written: February 2012
This paper examines the dynamics and possible effects of transnational private certification of labor standards in Chinese export-oriented consumer products industries. Drawing on interviews with various relevant actors in Guangdong, Shanghai, and Beijing and a survey of manufacturing firms in Guangdong province, we investigate: How have initiatives originating outside China been shaped by the Chinese context and potential competition from domestically-driven standards? What are the circumstances in which factories get certified, and to what extent does being certified indicate compliance with standards? To what extent are there clear differences in the performance of certified and non-certified factories? Overall, we find that factory certification has been insufficient to transform labor conditions and relations in Chinese factories, but it sometimes supports improvement or formalization in management practices. In addition, we consider whether factory certification may have indirect effects on the evolution of labor relations in China and the shape of global governance.
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