Trade, enterprises and labour markets: Diagnostic and firm-level assessment (ASSESS)

Background and objectives

The project is funded and supported by the European Commission and is one component of a broader ILO research programme entitled “Integrating trade and decent work” (INTEGRATE). Rather than adopting a traditional market-oriented perspective on globalization and its impact on employment, this project follows a more human-centred approach, which means treating decent work as a central objective of trade policy, as called for in the ILO Centenary Declaration for the Future of Work (2019).

To that end, the project analyses the effects of trade on both quantitative and qualitative aspects of the labour market using decent work metrics that are based on the ILO manual Decent Work Indicators: Guidelines for Producers and Users of Statistical and Legal Framework Indicators (2013). Specifically, the project involves (a) identifying key decent work indicators that are relevant in the context of trade; (b) critically analyzing methodologies used to assess the effects of trade on labour; and (c) conducting empirical analyses in selected countries on the basis of these approaches and indicators.

Research questions

  • How can assessments of the impact of trade on firms and workers capture various aspects of decent work more comprehensively?
  • What are the main differences and complementarities between the various techniques used to assess the effects of trade on the labour market?
  • Which decent work indicators are relevant to specific countries in the context of trade and how can they be used to measure its effects?

Outputs and key activities

  1. Publication of a guide on trade and decent work that assesses the key labour market indicators linked to trade, taking into account both qualitative and quantitative aspects, such as wages, type of employment and working hours, disaggregated by sex and age where data are available;
  2. Publication of a handbook on the methodologies that can be used to assess the impact of trade on labour at the macro, meso and micro levels, including an evaluation of their strengths and weaknesses;
  3. Publication of country case studies at the sectoral and enterprise level for Mexico and Viet Nam that investigate the impact of trade on specific labour market indicators of relevance to these two countries;
  4. Development of an integrated web portal on trade and decent work. The portal is intended to serve as an authoritative resource for studies of trade and labour and as the main data repository for comprehensive analyses of labour provisions in trade arrangements. It will also serve as a platform for disseminating information on, and findings from, ILO research and related activities on trade and decent work;
  5. Organization of tripartite forums and research seminars on the labour market impacts of trade liberalization, specifically within the framework of trade agreements.