Cornell University

International Programs

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Faculty Profile

Gary Fields, Professor, Labor Economics

What Does It Mean to Advance the World of Work

Contemplating ILR's Motto

Gary Fields PortraitContemplating ILR's Motto

Gary S. Fields remembers contemplating ILR's motto when he first heard it. 'Advancing the World of Work' is appropriate and descriptive for ILR, he believes, because it illuminates the effort on behalf of both the extension and resident divisions to facilitate research and teaching on all issues of importance to the international workplace.

Intellectual Pursuits

Gary views the ILR School as a triangle with labor, management, and public interest at the three corners, and he places his own intellectual pursuits squarely in the center. More formally stated, his major interests are: bottom-line workplace management; labor economics for managers; economic mobility; and poverty, inequality, and economic development in the developing world.

Continually Asking the Important Questions

Income distribution, development and pathways out of poverty are his forte, as are the related policy issues. While teaching in graduate and undergraduate classes, Gary is continually posing the questions, what do we mean by development and what are its effects? He enjoys examining the related policy issues with his Cornell students on the Ithaca campus and in New York City as well as his extension work with the ILO, World Bank, U.S. Dept of Labor and other national and international organizations.

Working in India

Indian Woman Rolling TobaccoGary credits his particular frame of reference with allowing him to cross some barriers. A year ago, Gary traveled to India with other university faculty members as part of the Poverty, Inequality and Development Initiative at Cornell, a group involved with studying poverty in the developing world. Two-person teams made up of one Cornell faculty member and one member from the international group Women in the Informal Economy lived and worked with local families. Female heads of households hosting the visitors were all members of the Self-Employed Women's Association, a registered trade union in India. Gary's host worked for her living hand-rolling cigarettes, earning just 80 cents a day for 1,000 cigarettes.

Argentina, South Africa and Albania

Gary frequently presents research and papers to government groups and international agencies in the U.S. and abroad. He recently co-authored a report for the National Research Council's Committee on Monitoring International Labor Standards. His current policy advising includes recent trips to Argentina to meet with the Deputy Minister of Economy and to South Africa to meet with the head of the National Treasury and the National Budget Director. He also is working at present with the World Bank on projects on Pro-Poor Growth, Labor Market Analysis for Economic Development, and Employment Issues in Albania and with Canada's International Development Research Centre on priorities for labor market research in developing countries.

Summer Travels

At the time this article was being prepared, he was about to embark on summer travels to California, Australia, and Spain to present his work at various universities and conferences.

Photo Credit: Woman hand-rolling cigarettes
©International Labour Organization, All Rights Reserved

- Gary Fields, Professor, Labor Economics

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