Labour Governance in global production networks: Assessing labour standards in a new generation of public procurement legislation and trade agreements linked to market access into the European Union (LG-GPN)

The global economy is increasingly structured around global production networks (GPNs). For many countries of the Global South, integration into GPNs is a key industrialisation and development strategy. While GPNs have provided employment opportunities and led to improvements in economic development in some countries, they have in many cases also contributed to poor working conditions and international labour rights violations. This is particularly the case for the clothing and electronics industries, which have faced low wages, excessive overtime, insecure work contracts, forced labour, and deaths from building collapses and worker suicides. Public and private governance measures, such as national laws and private standards, thus far, have resulted in limited success in systematically improving working conditions and protecting workers in GPNs. While research on labour governance in GPNs has focused on these more traditional governance measures, we know less about the effects a new generation of labour standards tied to market access into the European Union (EU) (the largest public and private consumer market in the world) can have on working conditions in GPNs.

The LG-GPN project aims to fill this gap by researching the impact labour standards that are part of new free trade agreements and public procurement legislation in the EU can have on labour governance in GPNs. The project case studies are on the clothing and electronics industry GPNs and the production country Vietnam. The case study on Vietnam is relevant because it is a country that is deeply embedded in the clothing and electronics industry GPNs and is an important trading partner of the EU. The LG-GPN project specifically analyses labour provisions as part of the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA) and socially responsible public procurement in Germany, Austria, the Netherlands and Sweden. It assesses if and how these new governance instruments affect governance processes of and power relationships between GPN actors that include firms, civil society organisations, trade unions, and government agencies in the EU and in Vietnam.

The LG-GPN project uses an inter-disciplinary theoretical framework that combines the GPN approach originating in economic geography with emerging theories in transnational regulatory governance from political science and concepts of labour power and transnational networks from labour sociology. The objective of the LG-GPN project is to advance theory on transnational labour governance in GPNs and increase our empirical understanding of labour governance through an under-researched set of labour standards and a key GPN production location in the Asia-Pacific region (Vietnam) with strong economic ties to the EU.

The project is funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG) and the Austrian Science Fund (FWF) and brings together researchers from the Berlin Social Science Center (WZB), the University of Vienna and TU Wien.

Project Team

Principal investigator and project leader (Germany): Gale Raj-Reichert, Ph.D. (Berlin Social Science Center, WZB)

Gale Raj-Reichert is a Research Fellow at the Berlin Social Science Center (WZB) and Lecturer in Economic Geography at the School of Geography at Queen Mary University of London. She holds a PhD in Development Studies from the Global Development Institute of the University of Manchester. Her research is focused on labour governance in the electronics industry global production network/global value chain, and in particular on how working conditions are governed by firms, civil society organisations, and governmental actors in the Southeast Asia region. This has included research on Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Vietnam and China.

Principal investigator (Austria): Dr. Cornelia Staritz, Ph.D. (University of Vienna)

Cornelia Staritz is Tenure Track Professor in Development Economics at the Department of Development Studies at the University of Vienna. She is also a Senior Research Associate at the Austrian Foundation for Development Research (ÖFSE) and Research Associate at the Policy Research on International Services and Manufacturing (PRISM) at the Department of Economics at the University of Cape Town. She holds a PhD in Economics from the New School for Social Research and a Doctorate in Economics from the Vienna University of Economics and Business. Her research focuses on development economics and policy, international trade and trade policy, global production networks and value chains, and commodity-based development.

Co-principal investigator (Austria): Dr. Leonhard Plank (TU Wien)

Leonhard Plank is Assistant Professor at the Centre of Public Finance and Infrastructure Policy at the Department of Spatial Planning at TU Wien. Before joining the Institute, he was a visiting fellow at the University of Manchester, the University College London (UCL) and the Institute of Human Sciences (IWM). He holds a PhD in Business Administration from the University of Graz. His research interest is structured around globalisation and socio-economic development at different scales and conceptions of alternative economies, as well as on infrastructure and financialisation. He is a member of the Foundational Economy Collective.

Post-doc researcher: Kristoffer Marslev, PhD (University of Vienna)

Kristoffer Marslev is Post-Doc Researcher in the LG-GPN project at the Department of Development Studies at the University of Vienna. He is a political economist with a main research interest in labour in global production networks and value chains. After degrees in political science from the University of Copenhagen and development studies from SOAS University of London, Kristoffer completed his PhD in global studies at Roskilde University and the Danish Institute for Human Rights. In his thesis, Kristoffer uses a class-relational theoretical perspective to investigate processes of social and economic upgrading in the clothing industries in Cambodia and Vietnam.

Study assistant: Clara Hanfland

Clara Hanfland is a Student Assistant in the LG-GPN project. She is currently pursuing an M.A. in "Political Science" at the Free University of Berlin. In her work and studies, Clara focuses on the question of how to improve working conditions in global value chains.


Plank, L., Raj-Reichert, G., Staritz, C. (forthcoming) A theoretical framework to understand socially responsible public procurement in the EU within global production networks




XIV Konferenz der Global-Labour-Universität, Berlin, 27.–29. März

Society for the Advancement of Socio-Economics Annual (SASE) Conference, New York City, 27.–29. Juni

Regulating Decent Work, International Labor Organisation, Genf, 7.–9. Juli 






Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)

FWF Der Wissenschatfonds


Cooperation partners:

Research Group “Globalization, Work, and Production”, Berlin Social Science Center (WZB)

Department of Development Studies, Faculty of Social Science, University of Vienna

Research Group Public Finance and Infrastructure Policy, Department of Spatial Planning, TU Wien