The struggle for social upgrading: A study of electronics global value chains in Thailand

Lead Research Organisation: Queen Mary, University of London
Department Name: School of Business and Management


In its 2020 World Development Report, Trading for
Development in the Age of Global Value Chains
(WDR2020), the World Bank specifies a new taxonomy in
which development is conceptualised as a four-tier
sequence of 'upgrading' within Global Value Chains (GVCs).
It associates a series of developmental outcomes with
national upgrading, including improved wages and working
conditions, and recommends policies to achieve it.
However, the report is unable to identify the mechanisms
delivering benefits to workers. In contrast, many studies
have shown that economic upgrading does not necessarily
lead to 'social upgrading' for workers, but the reasons are
not understood. There is an urgent need to address this
gap. This submission proposes a novel study of Thailand,
focussing on the social processes influencing upgrading.
Thailand is judged by the World Bank to have recently
upgraded, and its new development model targets further
upgrading in electronics GVCs, proclaiming inclusive
benefits. However, media reports indicate that the sector's
workforce, characterised by female migrant workers, has
experienced social downgrading. Notable exceptions are
where gains have been won by new labour-NGO coalitions.
The study will assess if, and how, social upgrading has
occurred by analysing the social struggles affecting
different groups of workers. Thus, it will provide situated
insights into the processes which determine developmental
trajectories and, concurrently, shape GVC restructuring.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
ES/P000703/1 30/09/2017 29/09/2027
2435213 Studentship ES/P000703/1 30/09/2020 31/03/2024 Dara Leyden