Core labor standards--an end to forced and child labor, nondiscrimination, and respect for workers' right to organize--are an important mechanism for spreading the benefits of globalization more equitably and should be promoted. But exactly what standards to include and how to enforce them remain contentious. In this CGD Note, senior fellow Kimberly Elliott says that U.S. policy should focus on both domestic issues, such as ensuring that U.S. workers have adequate safety nets, and international issues, such as assisting countries in improving compliance with labor standards as part of a strategy to promote economic development and stronger democracies around the world. Specifically, U.S. policymakers should:

  • Leave details of labor laws to national governments, with monitoring by the International Labor Organization
  • Focus enforcement under trade agreements to egregious and clearly trade-related violations of the core labor standards
  • Provide financial and technical assistance to help countries improve labor conditions