To read this content please select one of the options below:

Research progress on working conditions in supply chains: a comprehensive literature review and future research propositions

Surajit Bag (Department of Transport and Supply Chain Management, University of Johannesburg, Auckland Park, South Africa)
Pavitra Dhamija (LM Thapar School of Management, Thapar Institute of Engineering and Technology, Patiala, India) (Department of Construction Management and Quantity Surveying, Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment, University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg, South Africa)

The TQM Journal

ISSN: 1754-2731

Article publication date: 22 December 2022

Issue publication date: 5 December 2023




The International Labour Organization (ILO) has emphasized advancing decent employment in global supply chains. Supply chains (SC) are responsible for the growth of any economy and are positively correlated with job creation. However, studies show that decent working conditions are becoming a major concern. Hence, this study is a modest attempt to examine the shortcomings that result in a lack of decent working conditions in global SCs' and further discuss what kind of guidelines, programs, policies, initiatives or principles are necessary to stimulate decent jobs and/or make it easier to enhance decent working conditions in SC.


The present paper first applied the systematic literature review and second used the TCM (Theory-Context-Methods), which is a framework-based review, further reporting the analysis of 59 journal research articles/papers listed in the Scopus database.


The most commonly used theories in the selected studies are institutional theory. As per these theories, governance, rules and regulations play a crucial role in stopping forced labour, child labour practices and social injustice among workers. The findings of this study comply with SDG eight, which states the significance of decent working conditions. Further, the topic modeling reveals four themes: (1) Nature of working conditions (2) Corporate legitimacy (3) Corporate governance mechanisms and (4) Corporate social responsibility, sustainability and ethics in firms. Lastly, we proposed a research framework that shows all the leading factors that influence working conditions in the supply chain.

Practical implications

Managers must focus on integrating decent working conditions in SC activities in their respective organizations and factories. Managers must realize and shoulder this responsibility with other top officials in the organization that improving the SC working conditions is the need of the hour. Consultation with Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) five (gender equality) (emphasize gender equality); and SDG eight (decent work and economic growth) (promote sustainable economic growth) is also recommended for managers. Lastly, managers need to develop suitable strategies keeping in mind the interplay between the leading factors (such as top management support, organizational culture, SA 8000 certification, occupational health and safety, stop forced labour and child labour practices, ethics training, enforce modern slavery act, global compliance regimes, buyer-supplier joint auditing, social responsible sourcing, stoppage of unauthorized sub-contracting, maintain SC transparency and CSR disclosure).


Using systematic literature review and TCM approach has provided some good takeaway points for managers. The study provides a valuable framework and fourteen research propositions which can be tested in the future.



Bag, S. and Dhamija, P. (2023), "Research progress on working conditions in supply chains: a comprehensive literature review and future research propositions", The TQM Journal, Vol. 35 No. 8, pp. 2282-2303.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2022, Emerald Publishing Limited

Related articles