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Global value chains for medical gloves during the COVID-19 pandemic: Confronting forced labour through public procurement and crisis

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Alexandra Hughes



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


This paper evaluates ways in which labour issues in global value chains for medical gloves have been affected by, and addressed through, the COVID-19 pandemic. It focuses on production in Malaysia and supply to the United Kingdom's National Health Service and draws on a large-scale survey with workers and interviews with UK government officials, suppliers and buyers. Adopting a Global Value Chain (GVC) framework, the paper shows how forced labour endemic in the sector was exacerbated during the pandemic in the context of increased demand for gloves. Attempts at remediation are shown to operate through both a reconfigured value chain in which power shifted dramatically to the manufacturers and a context where public procurement became higher in profile than ever before. It is argued that the purchasing power of governments must be leveraged in ways that more meaningfully address labour issues, and that this must be part of value chain resilience.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Hughes A, Brown JA, Trueba M, Trautrims A, Bostock B, Day E, Hurst R, Bhutta MF

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Global Networks

Year: 2023

Volume: 23

Issue: 1

Pages: 132-149

Print publication date: 01/01/2023

Online publication date: 22/01/2022

Acceptance date: 16/12/2021

Date deposited: 20/12/2021

ISSN (print): 1470-2266

ISSN (electronic): 1471-0374

Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell Publishing, Inc.


DOI: 10.1111/glob.12360


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