A recent McKinsey report says that the process of globalisation is not only not uniform across all industries, but there are large differences in the extent to which developed and developing countries have been integrated into a single market (McKinsey 2003). These “large differences” give cause to worry. There are some winners and some losers in this game. It has been pointed out by globalisation scholars that disproportionate benefits of globalisation go to the developed countries.
The developed countries, often called as ‘the North’, also seem to follow double standards in many respects.
On the one hand, they seek to vehemently push forward the levels of globalisation, on the other hand, they themselves spend enormous amounts of money in granting agricultural subsidies, and impose trade barriers. The protectionist tendencies in ‘northern’ countries are presenting major obstacles for ‘southern’ countries to be integrated into the world economy (Ayoob & Zierler 2005). On the other side of the equation, expert critics and common people alike in the Western nations are alarmed at the rate of flow of jobs from the developed countries to the developing countries.
They fear that the workers in the developed nations are being put at a severe disadvantage, and people of the Third World Countries are reaping benefits at their expense. Thus, there are allegations and counter allegations, many of them valid to some extent or other, that seem to widen the rift between the developing and developed nations in the era of globalisation.
Nevertheless, the cause of economic globalisation can be given a great boost, with its spread and benefits reaching farther and deeper in the near future, if all the major players in the game understand the concept of fair play.
This point can be better illustrated if we briefly consider the case of Nike, one of the first big corporations to jump into the globalisation bandwagon. Nike has grown in a massive fashion over the last several decades by taking advantage of global sourcing opportunities to produce lower cost products, the savings from which it ploughed back into marketing campaigns and improvement of product design. However, outsourcing, at once at the root of the company’s success, had also brought it obloquy for a long time.
In the 1980’s, when it just emerged as the leader of the market, it caught the attention of human rights activists who criticised it for sourcing its products in factories characterised by poor working conditions and associated with low wages and human rights violations. In 1990’s, the situation was further aggravated and Nike’s image was badly tarnished by news of child labour it was exploiting in countries such as Cambodia and Pakistan, along with new revelations of miserable working conditions and unacceptably low wages in the factories linked to Nike situated in countries such as China, Vietnam and Indonesia.
Nike and its suppliers were accused of serious disregard of employee welfare. Not entirely undeservingly, Nike products have come to be associated with unsavory things such as slave wages, forced overtime, and arbitrary abuse. Some people even feared it was the stark brutality of colonialism spreading in a different guise. However, Nike was soon forced to mend its ways to a large extent and ameliorate the compensation schemes and working conditions for hundreds of thousands of cheap labourers that are employed in the manufacture of its products, though some critics still contend that Nike’s initiatives are not enough.
But Nike is striving to prove to the world that it is serious about doing the right thing (Locke 2003). Perhaps to make up for its past excesses, Nike has increasingly associated itself with environmentalism in the recent years and the innovative environmental slant its product design has created a new healthy aura around its name, besides contributing to its success. Thus when the business of economic globalisation is conducted on fair terms, by and large, everyone could stand to benefit, though there would be some inevitable disadvantages even in a situation of fair play.
Such difficulties arise because in the very logic of things, one cannot have the cake and eat it too. For example, if research and development work is outsourced to developing nations which have an immense pool of scientific expertise, available at a fraction of cost as in the developed world, then naturally the impetus to innovation and research in the some countries of the developed world is going to suffer. Perhaps such an eventuality cannot be helped unless the very ideological foundation of our economy, namely capitalism, is abandoned or compromised in favor of some form of restrictive socialism.
There are no easy solutions to these problems, and that is the reason they raise such heated debate in political, social, and media circles. There are a number of problematic aspects where if one side wins, the other side loses, and yet there is an impressive expanse of ground, where, with fair play and mutual respect, all the players can come off as winners. Globalisation is not only a logical extension of capitalism, but is the natural culmination of the evolution of human society.
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