Research Outline

Fair Trade


Identify the percentage pay increase received by producers/workers creating "fair trade" products, versus regular non-certified products.
  • Provide evidence that fair trade does or does not increase worker income in developing countries
  • Focus on including a wide variety of products, beyond coffee/chocolate and including artisan and textile examples
  • Focus on attempting to find global studies

Early Findings

Data Availability

The initial round of research indicates that data availability is adequate on this topic.


NPR & Nature Sustainability

  • NPR published an article in July 2019 titled "Fair Trade Helps Farmers, But Not Their Hired Workers" which found that fair trade certification did help small-scale farmers in developing countries earn more for their product, but it did not help the workers on those farms. The article was written by Dan Charles and published in the NPR program The Salt.
  • The article cited a study from the journal Nature Sustainability published in July 2019 by Eva-Marie Meemken, Jorge Sellare, Christophe N. Kouame & Matin Qaim titled "Effects of Fairtrade on the livelihoods of poor rural workers." The study reviewed cocoa plantations in Cote d’Ivoire and found that "Fairtrade hardly affects traditional employment modalities at the farm level even when farmers themselves benefit from certification."

World Development


  • An article written in The Reporter in June 2019 by Nathan Nunn reviewed the coffee sector in Costa Rica. The article was titled "The Economics of Fair Trade."
  • The study found that for unskilled coffee workers, Fair Trade certification had no effect on their income. For coffee farm owners, Fair Trade certification increased their income by 2.2%. For coffee intermediaries, Fair Trade certification decreased their income by 2.6%.


The research team was able to identify three articles/studies indicating the positive monetary effects of fair trade certification do not always reach workers. Initial research indicates that additional studies on this topic could be found. As well, we identified that studies illustrating the benefits to workers of the direct trade model are available.