Transnational labor standards are modeled as cooperative solutions to the class of strategic dilemmas known as Stag Hunts, in which all actors would gain from a cooperative solution, but only if all cooperate. If you think a partner will defect, your best strategy is also to defect. Intuitively, India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh will all be better off if none of their children work and all go to school; however if one defects from this agreement it will capture a stream of foreign investment linked to child labor. Understanding Stag Hunts explains why transnational labor standards are found both in genuinely international instruments (such as ILO conventions) and in bilateral trade agreements (since small groups can reach cooperative solutions in experimental Stag Hunts, while large groups cannot), and why multilateral standards are better than unilateral U.S. standards (because defection from a Stag Hunt makes rivals' defection rational). The Stag Hunt model sharpens the inquiry, but does not resolve, the question of the appropriate role of sanctions in the enforcement of labor standards.
International Law | Labor and Employment Law
Date of this Version
Alan Hyde, "A Stag Hunt Account and Defense of Transnational Labour Standards---A Preliminary Look at the Problem" (December 2004). Rutgers Law School (Newark) Faculty Papers. Working Paper 11.