Our View

    A lot of the activism with regard to globalization comes from organizations in wealthy countries whose constituents are adversely affected.  These are organizations whose mission has traditionally been to protect laborers in their country.  There is certainly nothing wrong with this and their efforts provide a useful balance to the lobbying influence of corporations.  Indeed, I generally vote democratic and sympathize more with the cause of labor.  However, in advocating their position, these groups have focused on the situations of workers from low wage countries, and in doing so, have convinced numerous other consciencous citizens to join them in fighting for the rights of these workers by fighting globalization.   Unfortunately, the overwhelming majority of these people have never lived in a low wage country and while they understandably want to better the plight of their countries' workforce, they are mistaken in believing that fighting globalization will improve the lives of these people.

    Clearly, there are abuses which occur and one positive has been to highlight some abuses, but the vast majority of jobs which are exported to low wage countries are a benefit to the poor people who live there.  Fighting against globalization in the name of these people is absurd and if given a chance, they will tell you so.  Unfortunately, the field of debate is dominated by understandably biased organizations from high wage countries.  I consider myself liberal and I naturally sympathize with those who are less privileged.  In this case, developing country workers are the less privileged and the marginally affected workers in high wage countries are comparably quite well off.

    One of the most common ways to argue against globalization is to illustrate how little people in low wage countries are paid.  The logic appears to be that one cannot live on these wages, these people are being hurt, and therefore they should be 'saved' from these jobs.  If I had no first hand knowledge of developing countries, I might actually agree with this.  But let us examine these questions more deeply.

    Are wages so unfair that they hurt these workers? - I currently live in the Philippines where apparel workers, according to one 'worker rights' organization, make 58 to 74 cents per hour.  This is compared to $8.42 in the United States.  First, let me object to making this comparison in dollars.  Things cost much less here and upon moving here, I learned awfully quick to stop thinking in dollars.  What matters is the local buying power which one gets with one's wages and this is largely (though not entirely) unrelated to the dollar equivalent.  Ironically, the one way to increase the dollar equivalent, making imported goods like oil more affordable, is to invest (ie. create jobs) in these countries which will increase the value of the local currency.  In local currency, this wage works out to about 5000 pesos per month.  This is not a lot of money, but I do know people who live on such sums, most of whom work for local employers and they can afford basic needs.  One can rent a place to live for 1000 pesos per month.  One can buy a TV for 2000 pesos.  One can have a meal at a restaurant for 20 pesos.  Do their children have their own rooms and cars?  No, but is that the measure of happiness?  To compensate, families tend to stick together more and perhaps that is one reason why people here seem happier.  More importantly, if you ask workers who produce foreign products, they are grateful for their employment and do you honestly think you would be helping them by taking their jobs from them?  The alternative of complete poverty is far worse than their current situation and is inconceivable to most people from developed countries.

    Are there abuses which occur?  Yes!  There are definitely abuses which occur and one benefit of this debate is to call attention to these abuses.  Hopefully this will improve the lot of these workers.  Personally, I agree with economists who say that improved wealth as a result of globalization will eventually lead to more liberal, rights oriented societies.  This is perhaps debatable, but these cases involve a decided minority of jobs that are exported to low wage countries.  If organizations really want to improve the lot of these workers, then they should work on just that, improving the lot of these workers.  Highlight abuses (clear abuses using local standards), but don't hurt them by taking their jobs, along with the jobs of countless others who aren't being abused.  Or better yet, why not reduce tariffs in developed countries to increase the competition for labor and thereby increase wages in developing countries.  When in doubt, ask the people you are trying to help.

    What about other aspects of globalization?  Loss of culture? American imperialism? Genetically modified food?  If we really want to have a constructive debate, let us not try to score points by bringing in valid, but unrelated issues.  Globalization of labor can occur entirely seperately from globalization of media or globalization of food and no conclusion will be reached if one tries to argue all issues at once. And taken by itself, there is no question that globalization of labor, taken as a whole, is beneficial to the world's working poor.

    The above essay was written in the year 2000 and may be out of date by now. If you would like to contact the author, you can do so by emailing webmaster (at) about my job dot com.  This domain is underutilized and we would definitely consider selling it.