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Arianna Rossi

The early global value chain (GVC) literature focused on economic upgrading as a pathway for increasing the gains of GVC participation for firms, industries and nations in the developing world. In recent years, increasing attention has shifted to social upgrading, that is, the process of improvements in the rights and entitlements of workers as social actors by enhancing the quality of their employment. In this chapter, the author analyses the genesis of the definition of social upgrading as well as its different measurements and indicators. Looking at the interplay between economic and social upgrading, there is significant evidence across different sectors that while economic upgrading may lead to social upgrading, this is not automatically the case. In certain instances, economic upgrading in GVCs may even result into social downgrading. The drivers that lead to the simultaneous emergence of economic and social upgrading are highlighted, showing that there can be win–win solutions for workers and business actors alike.