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Stephanie Barrientos

University of Manchester

Stephanie Barrientos is Professor Emerita in the Global Development Institute at The University of Manchester. She was previously a Research Fellow at the Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex. She gained her BA and PhD in Political Economy at the University of Kent. She has researched and published widely on gender, global production, employment, decent work, trade and labour standards, corporate social responsibility, fair trade, and ethical trade.
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podcast
Decent work through South-South Value Chains?
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Promoting sustainable minerals through global supply chains: scaling up or crowding out sustainability?
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Shifting South: Regional Value Chains, South-South Trade and Decent Work in Sub-Saharan Africa
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publication
Southern actors and the governance of labour standards in global production networks: The case of South African fruit and wine

Recent studies highlight the emergence of standards, including multi-stakeholder initiatives developed and applied within the global South where supplier firms are usually based. This trend has created a complex ethical terrain whereby transnational standards flow through global production networks and intersect with domestic initiatives at places of production. The paper complements global production network analysis with the concepts of ‘space of flows’ and ‘space of places’ and insights from relational economic geography, to examine how some multi-stakeholder initiatives in the global South can shape the broader governance of labour standards in global production networks. The following questions are addressed: How is the governance of labour standards in global production networks shaped by dynamic spatial interactions between actors? What role have diverse Southern multi-stakeholder initiatives played in influencing the governance of South African fruit and wine? We draw on research conducted over seven years into two standards in South Africa, the Wine and Agriculture Ethical Trade Association and Sustainability Initiative of South Africa. Our analysis shows that these two Southern-based multi-stakeholder initiatives contributed to shaping the broader governance of labour standards through dynamic non-linear waves of interaction over time, involving both collaborative and contested exchanges between actors across space of flows and places. We further argue that despite the development of multi-stakeholder initiatives by Southern actors, commercial power asymmetries in global production networks limit their ability to promote significant improvements for producers and workers.

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publication
Gender and governance of global value chains: Promoting the rights of women workers

Private governance channelled through social compliance programmes and gender initiatives of multinational companies have had limited impact in tackling gender discrimination in global value chains (GVCs). The United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) provide a public–private governance framework to address human rights globally, including gender equality. This article considers whether the UNGPs can provide a more effective governance framework for addressing women workers’ rights in GVCs. It argues that interlayered forms of governance (involving public, private and social actors) are critical in addressing gender discrimination in GVCs and advancing a gendered approach to human rights due diligence.

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publication
Gender and Work in Global Value Chains

This book focuses on the changing gender patterns of work in a global retail environment associated with the rise of contemporary retail and global sourcing. This has affected the working lives of hundreds of millions of workers in high-, middle- and low-income countries. The growth of contemporary retail has been driven by the commercialised production of many goods previously produced unpaid by women within the home. Sourcing is now largely undertaken through global value chains in low- or middle-income economies, using a 'cheap' feminised labour force to produce low-price goods. As women have been drawn into the labour force, households are increasingly dependent on the purchase of food and consumer goods, blurring the boundaries between paid and unpaid work. This book examines how gendered patterns of work have changed and explores the extent to which global retail opens up new channels to leverage more gender-equitable gains in sourcing countries.

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publication
Multi-scalar Labour Agency in Global Production Networks: Contestation and Crisis in the South African Fruit Sector

Integration into global production networks poses significant challenges, and also opens up opportunities, for labour agency. Governance by lead firms affects working conditions and can drive precarious employment; this interacts with and can constrain national labour legislation covering labour rights. The global production networks (GPN) approach facilitates examination of commercial value chains, their interaction with institutionally and societally embedded labour markets, and potential leverage points for labour contestation transcending local, national and global scales. This informs analysis of commercial/societal articulations as contested processes opening space for multi‐scalar labour agency within global production networks. This article examines how tensions between global commercial and societally embedded dimensions of global production networks drive precarious work, and seeks to understand the implications for emergent forms of multi‐scalar community‐based labour agency. These questions are explored through an examination of labour casualization and contestation in South African fruit production in 2012–13, using the GPN approach. The authors find that multi‐scalar channels of labour agency leveraging both global commercial and government actors can enable reworking by unorganized community‐based labour to bargain for better pay and conditions, but if the underlying global commercial logic is to be challenged, more systemic strategies are required.

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