Upgrading, uneven development, and jobs in the North American apparel industry

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Globalization is changing the nature of work and business in the contemporary world economy. Debate today revolves around the implications of globalization’s transformative influence for firms and workers, particularly in the developing world. While capital is increasingly mobile, workers remain relatively place bound, and this tension between the global and the local demands new tools for policymakers studying labor issues, as well as new strategies for labor activists. The International Labor Office has focused on the relationship between globalization and employment in numerous studies, which explore a range of issues from working conditions in maquiladoras to the impact of information and communication technologies on the quantity, quality, and location of jobs (see ILO, 2001). Many of these studies have focused on the cross-border production and trade networks that are at the heart of economic globalization, asking about the impact of these networks in the communities where they touch down. The consensus that emerges from this literature is that cross-border networks can have positive as well as negative developmental consequences: “Globalization in a regional framework can boost development opportunities, but it may also undermine established local networks of backward and forward linkages” (ILO, 1996: 120).