Building Capacity, Building Rights? State Capacity and Labor Rights in Developing Countries

Daniel Berliner, Anne Greenleaf, Milli Lake, Jennifer Noveck

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


Building state capacity has often been hailed as a cure-all for the ailments of the developing world and has been linked to human rights improvements, economic development, and the enforcement of property rights. Low state capacity, on the other hand, has been viewed as one of the primary impediments to improvements of labor rights and other social justice issues. We examine the relationship between state capacity and the protection of labor rights in panels of 85 developing countries, and 34 "supply-chain-relevant" countries. We find that changes in state capacity are only associated with changes in labor rights in countries where workers' interests are better represented in the political system - measured alternately as left party power, democracy, union density, and potential labor power. Our findings highlight the importance of combinations of state capacity and political will in leading to improved rights of workers in global supply chains.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)127-139
Number of pages13
JournalWorld Development
StatePublished - Aug 1 2015


  • Global supply chains
  • Labor rights
  • State capacity
  • Working conditions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Development
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Economics and Econometrics


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