GLOBALIZATION AND THE INTERNATIONAL DIVISION OF LABOUR
Globalization and the shift of industries and jobs to low-wage countries are hotly debated political issues, but have deep historical roots. For centuries, cotton manufacturing has been central in global trade and industrial relocation. Textile production has existed almost everywhere, but its major export production centres have relocated in the past 250 years, notably from Asia to Europe/the US, then back to Asia. When and why these shifts occur is however still poorly understood. Reducing labour costs has been argued to be central in this ‘race to the bottom’, but this does not explain why textile production was resilient in some regions and periods, and not in others.
Race to the Bottom?
The project Race to the Bottom? Family labour, household livelihood and consumption in the relocation of global cotton manufacturing explores the macro-economic global relocation of textile production from a micro-level perspective: households’ labour and consumption decisions. It comprises a comparative study of changes in labour allocation and consumption at the household level, to deepen macro-level studies on global textile production. It will investigate to what extent, and how, gendered allocation of work on the household level impacted macro-economic shifts in labour division. It will scrutinize households’ multiple livelihood strategies, and relate this to the resilience or disappearance of local textile industries. Finally, it will analyze how local consumption patterns have influenced the continuation and disappearance of particular types of textile manufacturing over time and space. This lends workers and households the agency that most studies have so far overlooked, thus offering new explanations for regional as well as global divisions of labour.