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The Handbook of Service Industries

Edited by John R. Bryson and Peter W. Daniels

Service activities are now acknowledged as key players in economic development, societal change and public policy worldwide. This exciting Handbook not only contributes to ongoing conceptual debates about the nature of service-led economies and societies; it also pushes back the frontiers of current critical thinking about the role of service activities in urban and regional development and the important research agendas that remain to be addressed.
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Chapter 22: Transnational Work: Global Professional Labour Markets in Professional Service Accounting Firms

Jonathan V. Beaverstock


22 Transnational work: global professional labour markets in professional service accounting firms Jonathan V. Beaverstock* Introduction In 2001 at Doha, the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) highlighted the need for the liberalisation of trade involving the temporary movement of people to supply services across national borders (termed GATS Mode 4):1 GATS Mode 4 only covers movement of people supplying services; there are no parallel WTO rules covering movement of people in other areas such as agriculture or manufacturing. And while in theory Mode 4 covers service suppliers at all skill levels, in practice WTO members’ commitments are limited to the higher skilled, usually managers, executives and specialists . . . There are at present no reliable global figures for the size of Mode 4 trade . . . Nonetheless, the very rough estimates we do have suggest that Mode 4, valued at USD 30 billion in 1997, is the smallest of the services supply defined by GATS. (OECD, 2003d: 2) For developing countries, when it comes to international trade in services, the liberalisation of labour mobility is pressing in areas such as nursing or information technology, as ‘sending people abroad to work temporarily is seen as virtually their only export interest in services (ibid.: 1). In developed countries the liberalisation of trade ‘via presence of natural persons (GATS Mode 4)’ (ibid.: 2) is also vitally important in services, as economic and technological change continues to increase labour market demand for the highly skilled in different temporal...

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