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Race to the bottom? Family labour, household livelihood and consumption in the relocation of global cotton manufacturing, ca. 1750-1990

Race to the bottom? Family labour, household livelihood and consumption in the relocation of global cotton manufacturing, ca. 1750-1990

Objective

Globalization and the shift of industries and jobs to low-wage countries are topical political issues, but have deep historical roots. For long, cotton manufacturing has been central in global trade and industrial relocation. Textile production has existed almost everywhere, but its major export centres have relocated in the past 250 years, notably from Asia to Europe/the US, then back to Asia. When and why these shifts occur is however still poorly understood. Reducing labour costs has been argued to be central in this ‘race to the bottom’, but this does not explain why textile production was resilient in some regions and periods, and not in others.
This project explores the macro-economic global relocation of textile production from a micro-level perspective: households’ labour and consumption decisions. It proposes an in-depth comparative study of changes in labour allocation and consumption at the household level, to deepen macro-level studies on global textile production. Its main question is to what extent, and how, gender divisions of work, households’ multiple livelihood strategies, and local consumption patterns have influenced the continuation and disappearance of textile manufacturing over time and space? Its empirical contribution is a systematic long-term global comparison of nominal and real textile wages in the context of total household income. Its methodological innovation is to comparatively study labour costs, skill formation and income over time from the micro- perspective of the household, using quantitative and qualitative approaches from several academic fields. Its analytical value is to study interactions between causal mechanisms on the macro-economic level (markets, institutions) and the location of textile manufacturing, with households’ production and consumption choices. This lends workers and households the agency that most studies have overlooked, thus offering new explanations for the global division of labour.
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Host institution

UNIVERSITEIT UTRECHT

Address

Heidelberglaan 8
3584 Cs Utrecht

Netherlands

Activity type

Higher or Secondary Education Establishments

EU Contribution

€ 1 999 250

Beneficiaries (1)

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UNIVERSITEIT UTRECHT

Netherlands

EU Contribution

€ 1 999 250

Project information

Grant agreement ID: 771288

Status

Ongoing project

  • Start date

    1 October 2018

  • End date

    30 September 2023

Funded under:

H2020-EU.1.1.

  • Overall budget:

    € 1 999 250

  • EU contribution

    € 1 999 250

Hosted by:

UNIVERSITEIT UTRECHT

Netherlands