Rising Powers and Interdependent Futures

sparks in metal factory

Rising Powers, Labour Standards and the Governance of Global Production Networks

Project details

Discipline: Area and Development Studies
Funded Period: 01 April 2013 – 31 March 2016
Rising powers: Brazil, China, India


The global economy is being transformed by the ‘Rising Powers’ – especially China, India and Brazil. One aspect of this transformation is how these economies are engaging with and potentially shaping, the rules that govern international trade and global production, in particular global labour and social standards. For the developing world, meeting international standards is increasingly critical. We are now more aware about the food we eat and how it came to our plates, or whether what we wear implied sweatshop labour. Yet, gains from compliance – especially for workers and poor producers – remain unclear. Expanding trade between the RP economies, their growing domestic consumer markets and the emergence of leading firms from China, India and Brazil raise questions on how global standards will be shaped in the future, who the key drivers will be, and what implications arise for workers in both these emerging economies and throughout the global economy.

This 3 year project, funded by the UK’s Economic and Social Research Council, involves comparative study in Brazil, China and India of leading RP firms and small firm clusters as well as State and civil society organisations. The research will draw on mixed on mixed methods approaches, including quantitative and qualitative data, to address the following questions:

  • First, how do rising power firms work with, challenge and modify global labour and social standards which their global value chains?
  • Second, how do civil society actors shape attitudes, norms and values on social standards?
  • Third, how does the State in Brazil, China and India regulate on labour and engage in the international institutions where trade rules on labour and social standards are defined?
  • Fourth, what are the consequences of these developments for:
    • Competitiveness of RP lead firms and the organisation of global ties?
    • For firms and states in OECD and developing economies?
    • For future trajectories of global and social standards?
    • For national and global policy actors
Project team

This project is based at the University of Manchester, UK but with close collaboration with colleagues in Brazil, China and India. It brings together a team of leading international experts working on the interface between global and local production and on the rules of trade.

Principal Investigator

Dr Khalid Nadvi (khalid.nadvi@manchester.ac.uk) leads the project and is well known for his work on global value chains, local clusters and the impacts of global standards. Khalid is a Professor of International Development at the Global Development Institute (GDI), University of Manchester, UK.

Other members of the core team

Professor Rudolf Sinkovics, Professor of International Business at Manchester Business School in the University of Manchester, UK. Rudolf’s research interests focus on governance issues related to overcoming environmental and commercial risks; information and communication technologies and international business; and methodological issues in business.

Professor Peter Knorringa, Professor of Private Sector Development at the Institute of Social Studies (ISS), Erasmus University Rotterdam, in the Netherlands. Peter’s research interests focus on enterprise development, clustering, value chain analysis, networks and social capital in development, ethical trade, and poverty alleviation.

Mr Mansueto Almeida – Department of Industry and Innovation Studies at Instituto de Pesquisa Economica Aplicada (IPEA) in Brasilia. Mansueto’s research interests focus on local clusters, environmental standards and industrial policy formation in Brazil.

Dr Chris Chan – Assistant Professor, City University, Hong Kong. Chris’ research interests focus on labour studies including analysis of work and employment, policy, CSR, global production chains and civil society.

Professor Keshab Das- Acting Director, Gujarat Institute of Development Research, India. Keshab’s work focuses on regional development, industrialisation, small firm development, industrial clusters, informal sector, labour and basic infrastructure in both rural and urban areas.


Workshop on Labour Standards and Labour Law Reforms in the Rising Powers: Trends and Prospects in Public and Private Regulations, University of Cambridge, 5-6 September 2016

In a recent workshop held in Cambridge in September 2016 researchers from the Centre for Business Research (CBR), University of Cambridge, and from the Global Development Institute, University of Manchester, discussed the findings from ESRC-funded research. The workshop focused on labour law reforms, labour standards and corporate social responsibility (CSR) practices in Rising Powers, including China, India, South Africa and Brazil.

Special Issue: Labour Regulations and Labour Standards in ChinaInternational Labour Review, Volume 153, Issue 4

Special Section: Rising Powers from Emerging Markets – The Changing Face of International Business, International Business Review, Volume 23, Issue 4

Special Issue: “Rising Powers” and Labour and Environmental Standards: Challenges to the Global Governance of Consumption, Production and Trade, Oxford Development Studies, Volume 42, Issue 2, 2014

Working Papers

Principal investigator Dr Khalid Nadvi discusses the project 'Rising Powers, Labour Standards and the Governance of Global Production Networks'.