Stanford labor economist Robert J. Flanagan apparently thinks so.
Richard Cooper reviews his new book (Globalization and Labor Conditions: Working Conditions and Worker Rights in a Global Economy, Oxford University Press, 2006) in the March/April Foreign Affairs:
In this impressively argued, empirically supported analysis of the evolution of working conditions in today's world, the Stanford economist Flanagan addresses the contention, advanced aggressively in political discussions, that globalization worsens the conditions of labor, spurring a "race to the bottom."
Based on analyses of 30 years of data from many countries, Flanagan concludes that, to the contrary, the three economic dimensions of globalization -- greater foreign trade, foreign direct investment, and international migration -- are associated with improved working conditions (higher wages, fewer hours of work, fewer accidents at work) and improved workers' rights (less child labor, greater freedom of association, less forced labor); open economies have significantly better working conditions than more closed economies.
Although he does not oppose increased regulation on behalf of labor at the national or international level, Flanagan is skeptical, on the basis of the evidence, that such regulation will by itself improve the conditions of the average worker. Too often, it improves the circumstances of some workers while worsening the circumstances of others.
His book offers the general advice that any proposed policy action should be evaluated on the basis of whether it enhances or narrows the opportunities available to workers. Expanded opportunities, such as those created by greater economic growth, are more likely to succeed in improving working conditions.
The Oxford University Press web site for the book has a link to the table of contents, and a more detailed description:
This book explains the effects of three key mechanisms of globalization international trade, international migration, and the activities of multinational companies on working conditions and labor rights around the world.
Drawing on analyses of a database on international labor conditions assembled for this project and a growing research literature on globalization and labor conditions, the book reveals how conditions have changed during the late 20th century globalization, and presents and evaluates evidence on links between globalization mechanisms and labor conditions. The book presents and evaluates evidence on how economic growth, international trade, migration and multinational companies influence labor conditions.
The analysis and evidence indicate that countries that are open to international trade have superior labor conditions. Moreover, foreign direct investment mainly flows to countries with superior labor conditions, and wages and working conditions in multinational companies are superior to employment conditions in host-country firms. The book also reviews the historical effects of international migration on wages (and other working conditions) and discusses the role of modern barriers to international migration. The evidence indicates that each of the mechanisms of globalization is associated with the improvements in working conditions predicted by international trade theory and with improvements in labor rights.
In contrast, the evidence does not support the view that increasing economic integration initiates an international race to the bottom that produces sweatshop labor conditions.
The book also discusses alternative policies for improving world labor conditions further, including national and international labor standards regulation. The evidence indicates that in contrast with trade, migration, and international capital flows, labor standards regulation has had a negligible role in advancing labor conditions. As an alternative, several policies that create opportunities for targeted worker groups show promise for supplementing the positive effects of globalization on labor conditions.
I'll look forward to reading this. It looks like it has something to say about the policy the U.S. should adopt towards incorporating labor issues into its trade negotiations. It'll be interesting to see what it has to say about workers in developed countries.