International institutions and workers' rights: Between labor standards and market flexibility

Mark Anner, Teri Caraway

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


International financial institutions (IFIs) like the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank often have used the leverage afforded them through their loan mechanisms to demand domestic labor market flexibility. At the same time, the International Labour Organization's call to respect Core Labor Standards (CLS) in the global economy has increasingly gained acceptance since 1998. CLS that sanction freedom of association and collective bargaining have been particularly emphasized by the ILO since these are collective rights that enable the exercise of other rights. While IFIs have generally held to free market principles, new research findings and international pressure has led the IMF and World Bank to be more open to the idea of core labor standards. Implementation has often lagged, but some advances have been made. This includes the World Bank's commitment to ensure respect for CLS through its private sector lending arm. Yet to be seen is whether these policy shifts will lead to greater respect for labor standards or whether the continuation of market-oriented reforms will further undermine labor's collective power, creating new challenges for future resistance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)151-169
Number of pages19
JournalStudies in Comparative International Development
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2010


  • Flexibility
  • ILO
  • IMF
  • Labor standards
  • World Bank


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