Economic, Legal and Political Perspectives
Edited by Axel Marx, Miet Maertens, Johan Swinnen and Jan Wouters
Chapter 5: Market-driven Promotion of International Labour Standards in Southeast-Asia – the Corporatization of Social Justice
26/6/12/final 5. Market-driven promotion of international labour standards in Southeast Asia: the corporatization of social justice Ludo Cuyvers and Tim De Meyer1 INTRODUCTION Labour must never be made a commodity lest ‘working poverty’ ultimately undermines the process of wealth creation that serves both as the cause and purpose of political stability. This insight is more than 150 years old, but it took an economic and political cataclysm for the international community to embed it in a global institution, and another one2 to embed it in the international trade and ﬁnancial policies deemed necessary to make economies more interdependent and fuel the development of nations gaining full political sovereignty. Today, the free interplay of supply and demand – better known as ‘the market’ – is almost universally accepted as the most eﬃcient method for driving the production and distribution of goods and services nationally and internationally. As labour is a production factor, eﬃciency is served by having it allocated according to market principles, that is, where its productivity and return on investment are the highest, so that both proﬁts and wages can be maximized. To the extent that labour markets ‘fail’ to subsume costs to society, public authorities may intervene to allocate liabilities or – better still – spread ‘the risk of failure’ over all those likely to incur them, through social insurance. For example, not all individual employers are likely to assume the cost to society – not to mention the worker and his or her family – of productivity loss and continued...
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