Handbook on Global Value Chains
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Handbook on Global Value Chains

Edited by Stefano Ponte, Gary Gereffi and Gale Raj-Reichert

Global value chains (GVCs) are a key feature of the global economy in the 21st century. They show how international investment and trade create cross-border production networks that link countries, firms and workers around the globe. This Handbook describes how GVCs arise and vary across industries and countries, and how they have evolved over time in response to economic and political forces. With chapters written by leading interdisciplinary scholars, the Handbook unpacks the key concepts of GVC governance and upgrading, and explores policy implications for advanced and developing economies alike.
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Chapter 16: Social upgrading

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.

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