Academic journal article Global Governance

The Ripple Effect: Peer ILO Treaty Ratification, Regional Socialization, and Collective Labor Standards

Academic journal article Global Governance

The Ripple Effect: Peer ILO Treaty Ratification, Regional Socialization, and Collective Labor Standards

Article excerpt

The article analyzes labor standards using a new dataset and finds a peer effect of treaty ratification, and a positive effect of relationship with the EU. The article examines the ILO's and the EU's labor rights promotion activities since the late 1990s. It reviews international causes of changes in countries' labor standards. It draws on literature on the role of global and regional institutions in shaping country level policies and formulates research hypotheses regarding labor standards. The article describes the new dataset and the spatial-OLS estimation method used. The results indicate that the causes of labor rights protection levels in Europe are different from those identified in other regions and stem from institutional transnational factors rather than from trade and foreign direct investment. Keywords: peer effect; treaty ratification; labor standards; spatial econometrics.

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In what ways and under what conditions do international treaties affect countries' policies? In this article I take up these questions from an institutional spatial econometric perspective and focusing on countries' protection of collective labor standards (CLS) in Europe. Protection of labor rights improves income distribution, (1) improves corporate accountability, (2) and mitigates social-economic cleavages. (3) Yet collective labor rights is the most commonly violated subset of human rights and it is violated in democratic as well as authoritarian regimes. (4) The questions of why this is the case and what international institutions can do to improve labor protection, on which this article is focused, are of crucial policy and conceptual importance. I identify seven potential avenues through which two organizations--the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the European Union (EU)--strive to affect countries' CLS protection. These include the peer effect in which regional ratification rates of ILO fundamental conventions send compliance intention messages and reassure countries against defection; communication of norms from the ILO to each of the studied countries; the EU's trade conditionality; the EU's financial conditionality; the EU's accession conditionality; socialization of EU-acceding countries; and soft coordination among member countries. Each of these instruments is coded as are countries' CLS policies.

The relative effect that each of these instruments has had on CLS in the studied countries is estimated, using multiple methods including fixed effects, dynamic fixed effects, and instrumental variable regression analysis. The findings indicate that increased regional rates of ratification have positive effects on countries' CLS protection. Interactions with the EU, whether in the form of trade agreements, through the accession process, or in the form of membership also have positive effects on CLS protection. These findings are conceptualized as a ripple effect in which country-level practices are influenced by regional processes and, in turn, influence other countries in the region. These findings have conceptual implications: this article shows that ratification is significant because of its effect on peers. Another conceptual significance is that my findings show that, contrary to widely held belief, regional integration does not have a negative impact on workers' ability to act collectively, and quite the contrary, the EU has a positive impact on CLS in virtually all of its partner countries. The findings are important from an empirical point of view because they uncover, based on empirical data, the impact of the ILO's 1998 declaration and because they identify the factors that shape CLS in Europe, which previous research has not been able to determine. Finally, the findings have important policy implications. They indicate that in their efforts to promote compliance with treaty norms, international institutions should focus their efforts on multilateral pressure directed at groups of countries rather than on bilateral pressure from the institution toward individual countries. …

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