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Global production networks

May 2011

Investigating the interconnections and ethics of global manufacturing

Global production networks

Increasing numbers of transnational corporations (TNCs) are attempting to run their overseas operations on a more ethical basis, sometimes even gaining FairTrade status. However, it is still the case that many labourers in lower-income countries (some of whom would be classed as school-age in the UK) remain poorly treated.

One important reason for this is that products ranging from laptops to trainers are rarely built by a single company working alone anymore. Instead, businesses all over the world collaborate in the assembly of consumer goods.

This article explains how this model of global trade works – and why, as a result of global production networks, it is very difficult for ethically-minded high-street shoppers to always be sure that they are making truly ethical purchases.

This article explores what is meant by the phrase ‘global production network’ and explains why it is an important unit of analysis for globalisation studies alongside single-firm case studies of TNCs. Special attention is paid to the ethics of globalisation and the treatment of factory workers. The case studies provided develop the important themes for A-level globalisation & development studies that were examined in “fast food farmers” (2009).

Relevance

  • AS/A2/IB teaching of development issues linked with trade (AQA), global interactions and out-sourcing (IB) and ethics of globalisation (Edexcel)
  • GCSE teaching of industrial employment and development issues
  • KS3 exploration of interdependency between people and places – and thinking critically about how people’s lives are affected by the world economy and globalisation

In the Members' Area:

  • What are global production networks?
  • What are the ethics of global production networks?
  • A-level / International Baccalaureate HL activity

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