PhD Topic and Supervision

Topic of PhD Thesis: Decent Work and Social Upgrading of Value Chains in South East Asia

Supervision: Prof. Dr. Christian Herzig

Research interests

  • Governance of agricultural value chains, e.g. through sustainability standards
  • Decent work, social upgrading and social justice
  • Business accountability
  • UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
  • Gender equality

Short portrait

Tanja has been part of the team since spring 2017. She focuses on the governance of global value chains and the implementation of social standards. She is particularly interested in social criteria within sustainability and organic standards and the implementation of the UN Agenda 2030 and the Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights. While she did previous research in the field of textiles and consumer electronics, she mainly focuses on agricultural and food products.

Between 2017 and 2020, she was responsible for a research project on working conditions ("Inclusive Industrialization for ASEAN") funded by the Canadian International Development Research Centre (IDRC), the insights of which she uses for her doctoral thesis. The project was based at the JustJobs Network, an independent research organization in New Delhi that was incubated at the US Center for American Progress. She spent several months each year in India to coordinate the project, and carried out data collection in Thailand, Myanmar and Vietnam with partner organizations on site.

Trained in development and agricultural economics, she holds a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Tübingen, and a Master’s degree from the University of Göttingen. She studied two semesters on exchange at the renowned McGill University in Montreal, Canada, where she focused on econometrics, international trade, environmental management and French.

Before joining the department, she worked in supply chain development and rural financial services at the Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) in India. Within the framework of the “ASA-programme”, funded by the German Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development, she collaborated with the NGO CREDI-ONG to develop a product marketing strategy for a group of women producers in Benin. She worked in the consulting sector for organizations in development cooperation and in the field of corporate social responsibility at a well-known German organic food company.

Tanja writes and publishes articles in English and German, e.g. for the JustJobs Network Blog or for Südostasien, a magazine published by the Stiftung Asienhaus (Foundation Asia House) and the philippinenbüro (Philippines Office).

As a member of the student working group "Global Development and Postcolonial Relations" within the scholarship program by the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, she facilitates online and offline seminars and publishes discussion papers. She previously volunteered in global citizenship education, and in outreach work for reproductive health.


Matheis, T.V. & Herzig, C., 2019, Upgrading products, upgrading work? Interorganizational learning in global food value chains to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, GAIA - Ecological Perspectives for Science and Society, Volume 28, Number 2, 126-134.

Matheis, T.V. & Herzig, C., 2019, Aufwertung in globalen Food Value Chains - Impulse zur Erreichung der nachhaltigen Entwicklungsziele, in: Mühlrath, D., Albrecht, J., Finckh, M., Hamm, U., Heß, J., Knierim, U., Möller, D. (Ed.): Innovatives Denken für eine nachhaltige Land- und Ernährungswirtschaft; Beiträge zur 15. Wissenschaftstagung Ökologischer Landbau, Verlag Dr. Köster, 406-409.


Matheis, T.V., Nandan, 2021, Organic and Fair Trade – Looking Beyond a Honeymoon. Evidence from the Nilgiris in India., IFOAM Organic World Congress, Rennes/Online, France, September 2021.

Matheis, T.V., Herzig, C., 2021, Social Upgrading Through Voluntary Sustainability Standards? A Comparison of Strategies to Achieve Gender Equality in Global Food Value Chains, EADI and ISS Conference 2021: Solidarity, Peace and Social Justice, The Hague/Online, Netherlands, July 2021.

Matheis, T.V., 2021, Voluntary sustainability standards – a fair trade? Exploring social justice and gender equality in the organizations that govern certification. 17th Development Dialogue at the International Institute of Social Sciences (ISS), The Haag/Online, Netherlands, July 2021.

Matheis, T.V. & Herzig, C., 2020, Representation of women’s voices in food standards: qualitative inquiry for more inclusive value chain governance, European Congress of Qualitative Inquiry (ECQI), Malta, February 2020.

Matheis, T.V., 2019, Interorganizational Learning for Social Upgrading in Food Value Chains, International Working Seminar on Responsibility and Accountability of Supply Chains, Kassel, March 2019.

Matheis, T.V. & Herzig, C., 2019, Aufwertung in globalen Food Value Chains – Impulse zur Erreichung der nachhaltigen Entwicklungsziele, Wissenschaftstagung Ökologischer Landbau, Kassel, March 2019.

Matheis, T.V., 2018, Inclusive Industrialization for ASEAN in Global Value Chains, IDRC-Grow Asia Side-Event at the 4th CABC Business Forum, Singapore, March 2018.

Matheis, T.V., 2017, Inclusive Industrialization for ASEAN in Global Value Chains, regional workshop organized by Friedrich Ebert Foundation and JustJobs Network “Work in an Era of Global Value Chains”, Singapore, November 2017.

Matheis, T.V., 2017, Inclusive Industrialization for ASEAN in Global Value Chains, United Nations ESCAP Regional Dialogue on Enhancing the Contribution of Preferential Trade Agreements to Inclusive and Equitable Trade, Bangkok, June 2017.

Contributions in Online Media

Matheis, T.V., 2020, Frischer Fisch dank Zwangsarbeit, Südostasien – Zeitschrift für Politik, Kultur, Dialog, Cologne, June 2020.

JustJobs Network Blog

Matheis, T.V., 2020, Force majeure as the new normal – how to protect workers in the looming climate crisis, JustJobs Network Blog, New Delhi, April 2020.

Kumar, A.B. & Matheis, T.V., 2018, Working Together for Minimum Wage Setting: Evidence from Myanmar, JustJobs Network Blog, New Delhi, November 2018.

Meepien, J. & Matheis, T.V., 2018, Aging Workers in Thailand’s Electronics Sector: A Perspective of Assembly Line Work, JustJobs Network Blog, New Delhi, March 2018.

Thang, N. & Matheis, T.V., 2017, Inclusive Industrialization: A Balanced View on Supply Chains in Vietnam, JustJobs Network Blog, New Delhi, August 2017.

Matheis, T.V., 2017, Global Value Chain Governance: A New Opportunity for Creating Just Jobs?, JustJobs Network Blog, New Delhi, April 2017.