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 18: Livelihood upgrading

Jeff Neilson


This chapter applies the fundamental concept of upgrading in global value chains (GVCs) beyond the standard applications to firms (industrial upgrading) and to labour within firms (social upgrading) by examining livelihood improvements amongst otherwise independent rural smallholders who are integrated within the supply chain of a lead firm. The author reviews conceptual developments examining the specific intersection of global value chains and the sustainable livelihood approach (SLA), and then draws upon recent research findings from the Indonesian coffee sector to suggest a proposed research agenda of ‘livelihood upgrading’. On the one hand, the SLA approach offers a corrective to an uncritical application of a value chains approach to rural development in the developing world, while also curbing some of the more fatalistic assumptions about the inevitability of exploitation through value chains. Conversely, GVC analysis also offers important insights for SLA by providing analytical rigour to the conceptualization of the transforming structures and process (and political economy) that shape livelihood outcomes.

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