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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter August 10, 2022

Informalization, obfuscation and bilateral labor agreements

  • Tijana Lujic and Margaret E. Peters


Researchers who have attempted to collect and compare bilateral labor agreements (BLAs) have encountered varying degrees of accessibility of information on these agreements. Why is it harder to find out information on some bilateral labor agreements than others? In this Article, we argue that it is more difficult to find information and agreements tend to be more informal when governments want to obscure what they are doing. Building on insights from the study of optimal obfuscation in trade policy and research on informal institutions in international politics, we argue that policymakers use more informal agreements and make it more difficult to find information on BLAs when they think they will be politically unpopular and are unlikely to be ratified. In contrast, leaders will be more likely to use formal agreements when they want to lock in a policy. Drawing on original quantitative data on the accessibility of information on bilateral labor agreements and Peters’ 2019 database on BLAs, the Article analyzes the accessibility of information on bilateral labor agreements and finds some support for our argument.

UCLA, We thank Myunghye Cho, Kwanhyo Kim, and Raphael Romea for their excellent research assistance. We thank Adam Chilton, Janie Chuang, and the rest of the participants at the Bilateral Labor Agreements Conference at Tel Aviv University on June 6-8, 2021, for their comments. All errors remain our own.

Published Online: 2022-08-10
Published in Print: 2022-07-26

© 2022 by Theoretical Inquiries in Law

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