Conceptualizing Labor Regimes in Global Production Networks: Uneven Outcomes across the Bangladeshi and Sri Lankan Apparel Industries

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This article seeks to develop the concept of labor regimes as a tool for understanding the uneven labor outcomes of global production networks (GPNs). Existing work on labor regimes tends to give primacy to the control of labor, thereby analyzing labor regimes largely from a governance perspective. The agency of labor, however, is deeply embedded in the workings of labor regimes in GPNs, and remains somewhat undertheorized therein. In this article, we seek to build on recent work that has revivified the concept of labor regimes in the context of global production to develop an approach that brings the governance and agency of labor under one analytical domain. For this purpose, we develop a multiscalar conceptual framework with relations amongst and between labor, capital, the state, and international civil society organizations delimited as the key dynamics shaping labor regimes. By employing comparative case study methods and qualitative inquiry, the article deploys this framework to examine and compare the labor regimes of the Bangladeshi and Sri Lankan apparel industries, which exhibit seemingly very different labor outcomes in the context of enrollment in similar GPNs. Based on the findings, the article explains how and why labor regimes are shaped as a result of the variable intersections of governance and agency, which in turn are deeply embedded in, and constitutive of, both global production dynamics and territorially specific characteristics.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEconomic Geography
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)68-90
Number of pages23
Publication statusPublished - 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Global production net-works
  • Labor regimes
  • Labor
  • Sri Lanka
  • Bangladesh
  • Apparel industry
  • Labor governance
  • Labor agency

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