Squeezing workers’ rights in global supply chains: purchasing practices in the Bangladesh garment export sector in comparative perspective

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Workers’ rights violations have been pervasive in many global supply chains. In the apparel sector, production workers often face precarious working conditions, including persistently low pay, excessive and often forced overtime, unsafe buildings, and repression of their right to form unions and bargain collectively. This article explores how purchasing practices of lead firms adversely affect working conditions and workers’ rights in supplier factories. It attributes these trends to a price squeeze and a sourcing squeeze in which lead firms pay increasing lower prices to suppliers while also imposing short lead times and high order volatility. To test this argument, trade data of apparel imports to the United States and the European Union are explored. The article then turns to original surveys of Bangladesh supplier factories and workers carried out in 2016 and 2017. The final section of this paper examines the impact of the squeeze on working conditions and workers’ rights using the Labour Rights Indicators.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)320-347
Number of pages28
JournalReview of International Political Economy
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 3 2020


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Political Science and International Relations

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