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A Better Deal for the World's Workers

Ultimately, boosting labor earnings and the dignity of work requires both strengthening workers’ bargaining power and increasing the supply of good jobs for those who most need them. That would give all workers a better deal and a fair share of future prosperity.

CAMBRIDGE – The last four decades of globalization and technological innovation have been a boon for those with the skills, wealth, and connections to take advantage of new markets and opportunities. But ordinary workers have had much less to cheer about.

In advanced economies, earnings for those with less education often stagnated despite gains in overall labor productivity. Since 1979, for example, US production workers’ compensation has risen by less than a third of the rate of productivity growth. Labor-market insecurity and inequality rose, and many communities were left behind as factories closed and jobs migrated elsewhere.

In developing countries, where standard economic theory predicted that workers would be the main beneficiary of the expanding global division of labor, corporations and capital again reaped the biggest gains. A forthcoming book by George Washington University’s Adam Dean shows that even where democratic governments prevailed, trade liberalization went hand in hand with repression of labor rights.

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