economic and social upgrading
in global production networks

Capturing the Gains: Economic and Social Upgrading in Global Production Networks and Trade

Firms in the North and South increasingly outsource production and services to developing countries through global production networks .

Capturing the Gains aims to develop knowledge on employment and wellbeing of workers and small producers in global production networks.

This research brought together an international network of experts from North and South to research and promote strategies for fairer trade and decent work.

The research network was funded by the UK Department for International Development, the Sustainable Consumption Institute, Chronic Poverty Research Centre and the The Economic and Social Research Council.

This website is no longer updated, but the research continues at the Brooks World Poverty Institute and Duke Center on Globalisation, Governance and Competitiveness.

Research updates

Other publications

OECD Africa Economic Outlook 2014

AfDB, OECD Development Centre and UNDP (May 2014)

The report finds that by participating more effectively in the global production of goods and services, Africa can transform its economy and achieve a development breakthrough. Chapters 6-8 discuss global value chains. Capturing the Gains researchers were involved in discussions and wrote a background paper for the report - although the OECD made their own interpretation and conclusions.

Read about the report.

Implications of Global Value Chains for Trade, Investment, Development and Jobs

UNCTAD, with the OECD and the WTO (August 2013)

The report, prepared for the G20 Leaders Summit in St Petersburg, September 2013, aims to stimulate a better informed policy debate on the evolving nature of integrated international production networks and their development implications.

Download the report (PDF, 1.72MB).

Bonded labour in South Asia’s textile industry: findings from the South Indian powerloom sector

A Global Insights series policy briefing by Geert De Neve and Grace Carswell, University of Sussex (July 2013).

Drawing on ethnographic research carried out in 2008-09 in Tamil Nadu, southern India, the briefing describes how textile workers across South Asia who produce for global markets continue to be subjected to bonded or un-free labour.

Download the briefing (PDF, 222KB).

UNCTAD World Investment Report 2013. Global Value Chains: Investment and Trade for Development

The report finds that developing countries can effectively use GVCs for building productive capacity, economic upgrading and social up-scaling. It acknowledges potential risks for host countries and proposes policies.

Download the report (PDF, 2.2MB).

Global Value Chains, Economic Upgrading, and Gender: Case Studies of the Horticulture, Tourism, and Call Center Industries

Cornelia Staritz and José Guilherme Reis (eds).

Based on a literature survey and case studies in Honduras, Kenya and Egypt, this World Bank book shows that GVCs and their upgrading dynamics have important gender dimensions.

Download the book (PDF, 1.55MB).

Cocoa production in the Dominican Republic: sustainability, challenges and opportunities: executive summary

Amanda Berlan and Ame Berges

A study commissioned by the UK chocolate company, Green and Black’s, through the Cocoa Partnership programme. It finds changes are needed to ensure that cocoa producers capture more benefits from the growing international market for Dominican cocoa.

Download the report (PDF, 84KB).

Investment and Value Added Trade in the Global Economy

This report provides preliminary analysis of the new dataset of global value chains established by UNCTAD's Division on Investment and Enterprise.

Download the report (PDF, 759KB).

One Thing Leads to Another: Promoting Industrialisation by Making the Most of the Commodity Boom in Sub-Saharan Africa

Mike Morris, Raphael Kaplinsky and David Kaplan (2012).
Dowload the flyer
(PDF, 196KB).

A note on profits, rents and wages in global production networks

Dev Nathan and Sandip Sarkar

Economic and Political Weekly, XLVI(36), 3 September 2011.

Download the article (PDF, 124KB).

View more related publications.

Project publications

Capturing the Gains in Africa: Making the most of global value chain participation

Annelies Goger, Andy Hull, Stephanie Barrientos, Gary Gereffi and Shane Godfrey, February 2014.

Prepared for the OECD, this report aims to provide insights for policy makers into how African countries can make the most of globalisation for inclusive development, examining the risks and opportunities of global value chain participation in Africa.

Download the report (PDF, 2.05MB).

Towards Better Work: Understanding Labour in Apparel Global Value Chains

Arianna Rossi, Amy Luinstra and John Pickles (eds.), November 2013. Forthcoming book provides solutions-oriented approaches for promoting improved working conditions and labour rights in the apparel industry.

Read publisher's details (PDF, 562KB).

Does economic upgrading lead to social upgrading in global production networks? Evidence from Morocco

Arianna Rossi (June 2013), World Development, 46, pages 223-233. DOI: 10.1016/j.worlddev.2013.02.002

‘Labour chains’: Analysing the role of labour contractors in global production networks

Stephanie Barrientos (2013), The Journal of Development Studies. DOI:10.1080/00220388.2013.780040

Missing links: Logistics, governance and upgrading in a shifting global economy

Neil M. Coe (2013), Review of International Political Economy. DOI:10.1080/09692290.2013.766230

Global value chains in a post-Washington Consensus world

Gary Gereffi (2013), Review of International Political Economy. DOI:10.1080/09692290.2012.756414

Outsourcing Economics: Global Value Chains in Capitalist Development

Forthcoming book by William Milberg and Deoborah Winkler. Insights and results from Capturing the Gains research infuse the book, in terms of the relation between economic and social upgrading, the policy implications of global value chains and theoretical considerations that value chains raise.

Read publisher's details.

Latest Capturing the Gains Working paper available to download

'Social and economic upgrading in floriculture global value chains: flowers and cuttings GVCs in Uganda ' (PDF, 405 KB) by Barbara Evers, Flavia Almoding and Aarti Krishnan (June 2014).

Latest Capturing the Gains Briefing Note available to download

'Women in value chains: making a difference'. (PDF, 893 KB) Michelle Christian, Barbara Evers and Stephanie Barrientos (February 2013).

View more Briefing Notes.

Capturing the Gains Global Summit

'Capturing the Gains in Value Chains' global summit took place on 3-5 December 2012 in Cape Town, South Africa.

The Summit aimed to define goals, agree an action plan and encourage strategic partnerships in economic and social upgrading in value chains. Sessions were made accessible through webcasting on the Capturing the Gains website.

Download the event flyer (PDF, 859KB).

View the Summit programme.

South Africa Minister of Trade and Industry, Rob Davies, addressed the Summit: "'We need to find a pattern of integration into value chains that supports and sustains improved living conditions for working people". Download a transcription of his keynote address (PDF, 181KB).

Download the Summit overview report (PDF, 468KB).


Proceedings available to watch via webcast from Cape Town.

Webcast technical requirements and FAQs

Latest News and Events

Buying with a conscience - garments made in Bangladesh? Symposium, Manchester

19 May 2014 - Stephanie Barrientos will join a panel discussion with leading researchers and actors in the garment industry, organised by the Brooks World Poverty Institute. They will debate whether we can buy Bangladesh garments with a conscience – and what can be done to improve conditions for workers in the industry. Read more about the symposium and register to attend.

Making supply chains work for producers and consumers - Round Table

February 2014 - Stephanie Barrientos participated in a Round Table hosted by The Guardian and sponsored by Tesco on: 'Making supply chains work for producers and consumers: How do we ensure global supply chains are fair to local companies, protect the environment and respect the rights of workers?' Read Guardian article summarising the discussion.

The marginal among the invisible: women in the informal sector

4 November 2013 - The Central America Women's Network and Capturing the Gains present a discussion with Nicaraguan and Malawian speakers, chaired by Prof. Stephanie Barrientos, at the University of Manchester. Download the event flyer (PDF, 659KB).

Capturing the Gains at the World Trade Organization

8-10 July 2013 - Capturing the Gains organise a panel, and participate in other panels at the WTO Fourth Global Review of Aid for Trade: 'Connecting to value chains', Geneva. Download the WTO report on the panel (PDF, 383KB).

Forced to die: Bangladesh factory collapse

30 April 2013 - In the wake of the worst ever disaster in the global clothing industry, Doug Miller blogs on the collective solutions to Bangladesh's industrial problems. Download the blog (PDF, 286KB).

See also reviews of Doug Miller's book, Last Nightshift in Savar: The Story of the Spectrum Sweater Factory Collapse (2012).

Death on the line

14 December 2012 - In the aftermath of the Bangladesh garments factory fire which killed 11 workers, John Pickles blogs on how shifts in the global apparel industry endanger workers. Read the blog.

Women in cocoa production: where is the gender equity?

8 March 2013 - Stephanie Barrientos writes for the Guardian Sustainable Business blog.

Download the article.

Capturing the Gains working paper attracts high profile press coverage

November 2012 - 'South African horticulture: opportunities and challenges for economic and social upgrading in value chains' (PDF, 821 KB) by Stephanie Barrientos and Margareet Visser (September 2012) is widely cited in the South African press. See press coverage.

International Labour Review special feature

Volume 150(3-4) of International Labour Review has a special feature on 'Decent work in global production networks', presenting Capturing the Gains research (also to be published in French and Spanish).