This article discusses some of the global contemporary issues, such as poverty, inequality, migration, and crime in relation to globalization.
Introduction: Globalization, the interconnectedness and integration of markets, societies, and cultures, has had a profound impact on contemporary issues. As economies become increasingly interconnected, the effects of globalization are felt in various domains, including economics, politics, culture, and the environment. While globalization has brought about economic growth and cultural exchange, it has also led to the displacement of workers, environmental degradation, and a widening gap between the rich and poor. In addition, globalization has played a role in shaping current geopolitical conflicts and tensions. As such, understanding the implications of globalization on contemporary issues is essential for creating effective policies and strategies that promote sustainable development and global cooperation.
Globalization, Poverty, and Inequalities
- Globalization has brought about positive and negative impacts on poverty and inequality globally. While it has opened up opportunities for economic growth and job creation, it has also widened the gap between the rich and poor, with the benefits of globalization mostly benefiting the few. Moreover, globalization has resulted in labor exploitation, leading to poor working conditions and low wages in developing countries, further contributing to poverty and inequality. Furthermore, globalization has caused environmental degradation and displacement of vulnerable communities, especially in regions where natural resources are extracted for export. To address these issues, sustainable and equitable development policies and practices must be prioritized, including fair labor standards, environmental protection, and social safety nets for the economically vulnerable. Globalization has been a topic of heated debate over the past few decades, particularly with regard to its impact on the life chances of people in developing countries in connection to income, health, and education.
- Income: Globalization’s impact on developing countries is debated. While some argue it provides economic growth and poverty reduction, others claim it worsens inequality and life chances. The Department for International Development (2008) states “economic growth is the most powerful instrument for reducing poverty and improving the quality of life in developing countries.” Olagunju et al. (2019) argue that globalization reduces poverty gap and increasing human capital improves welfare outcomes. However, critics argue that globalization has led to increased inequality within and between countries. Dreher and Gaston (2008) found that globalization has increased income inequality, particularly in OECD countries.
- Health: Globalization has positive and negative effects on health outcomes in developing countries. It can improve health by transferring medical knowledge, technology, and resources, leading to improved public health infrastructure, medicine access, and health outcomes. However, critics claim it can worsen health disparities by providing better care for the privileged. Private health care providers may cater to the wealthy, neglecting the health care needs of the poor, exacerbating existing inequalities. For instance, private hospitals often have better quality of doctors, facilities, and provisions, but they are also highly expensive, which can restrict their access to the poor.
- Education: Globalization’s impact on education is multifaceted. Supporters argue it can provide increased access and quality of education for people in developing countries, through investment, new ideas, technologies, and exchange of students and teachers. Critics claim it can exacerbate existing inequalities, with better opportunities for the privileged, and the commodification of education, where it is seen primarily as a means to achieve economic goals, rather than a public good. This can narrow the curriculum with a focus on vocational training over broader educational goals, worsening disparities. The growth of private education providers can cater to the wealthy, neglecting the educational needs of the poor, thereby exacerbating inequalities. For example, globalization may lead to the growth of private education providers who cater to the needs of the wealthy, while neglecting the educational needs of the poor. As such, the rich who can access these costly educational services (for example, BYJU’s) will have better life opportunities than the poor.
- Transnational organizations have played a critical role in tackling global inequalities, particularly through the promotion of sustainable development goals, human rights, and democracy. For instance, United Nations, World Bank, International Monetary Fund, etc., have been instrumental in developing policies and strategies aimed at reducing inequality, poverty, and promoting development in developing countries. Take for example the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, which include poverty eradication, reduced inequalities, and access to quality education, health, and clean water, aim to achieve greater economic and social equality across the globe. The World Bank and the IMF have also implemented programs aimed at reducing poverty, promoting economic growth and development, and improving governance in developing countries. While these organizations have made significant strides in tackling global inequalities, much work remains to be done as poverty, inequality, and social injustice continue to be pervasive problems in many parts of the world. Collaboration between transnational organizations and national governments and unceasing efforts are imperative to address the issue of global inequalities.
- Globalization has contributed to the growth of global inequalities, and sociological explanations provide insights into the underlying causes. One explanation is capitalism, which prioritizes the accumulation of wealth and profits, leading to the exploitation of resources, labour, and markets in developing countries. Multinational corporations often take advantage of weak labour laws and cheap labour to maximize profits, while also degrading the environment and natural resources. Another explanation is post-colonialism, which argues that the legacy of colonialism has left many developing countries in a state of economic and political dependency on developed countries. The unequal distribution of resources, including access to education, healthcare, and technology, has led to a global power imbalance that reinforces existing inequalities. Patriarchy is another sociological explanation for global inequalities, which highlights the gendered nature of social, economic, and political systems. Women are often marginalized in the global economy, working in low-wage jobs with little job security or access to social protections. For example, according to data from a National Statistical Office survey, “more than 90% of Indian women participated in unpaid domestic work at home in 2019 compared to 27% of men” (Radhakrishnan & Singaravelu, 2020). This gendered inequality is compounded by race, class, and other factors, resulting in the disproportionate impact of globalization on women in developing countries. Overall, these sociological explanations suggest that globalization has perpetuated existing inequalities and reinforced the power dynamics that benefit certain groups while leaving others behind.
Globalization and Migration
- Global migration refers to the movement of people from one place to another, often crossing international borders. Globalization has led to increased economic interdependence and has facilitated the movement of goods, capital, and information across borders. This, in turn, has created new opportunities for people to migrate, whether for economic, social, or political reasons. There are several causes of global migration. Immigration is known as the process of entering and settling in a foreign country, while emigration is he process of leaving one’s own country to settle in another. Globalization has increased economic disparities between developed and developing countries, with greater opportunities for economic advancement in developed countries, which has led to emigration from developing countries to immigration in developed ones due to better job opportunities, access to education and healthcare, political stability, and improved living standards in the latter. Push factors, such as poverty, conflict, and political instability in developing countries, have also driven migration, as people seek better economic opportunities, safety, and stability in developed countries. A very recent example can be the migration of around 7 million Venezuelan people from their home country to other countries in and around Latin America due to the economic collapse that the country hexamplas undergone (Arena et al., 2022). Pull factors, such as labour shortages in developed countries, have also encouraged immigration. Global labour patterns have also played a role in shaping migration trends, as multinational corporations have expanded their operations to developing countries, creating new job opportunities in these regions. This has led to an increase in skilled and unskilled labour migration from developing to developed countries. Tourism has also contributed to global migration, with increasing numbers of people traveling for work, study, or leisure, and some choosing to stay in the destination country permanently.
- Global migration has positive outcomes like cultural diversity and economic benefits. Migration brings diverse cultures together, promoting cultural understanding and tolerance. Migrants fill labour gaps, contributing to economic growth and increasing the tax base of host countries. Remittances sent back home by migrants can also improve the quality of life of their families and communities. However, global migration has negative consequences. The sudden influx of migrants can strain scarce resources, leading to competition and conflict between migrants and locals. Negative perceptions of migration, often based on cultural or racial differences, can lead to social tensions and discrimination against migrants. This can result in a rise of nationalism and anti-immigrant sentiment in host countries, leading to the exclusion of migrant communities and further social divide.
- Debates about who benefits from migration due to globalization are ongoing. One argument is that host countries benefit from the labour of migrants, who often take on low-skilled jobs that locals are not willing to do. For example, as Benach et al. (2011) state, “migrant workers are found in the agricultural, food processing, and construction sectors of the economy, in semi-skilled or low-skill manufacturing jobs, and in low-wage service jobs” (p. 1). According to Moriarty (2022), almost 73% of workers in the agricultural sector of the USA are immigrants. Migrants may also bring economic benefits through their consumption and payment of taxes. On the other hand, critics argue that migrants themselves often face exploitative working conditions, discrimination, and limited social mobility. In addition, the brain drain caused by migration can have negative impacts on the countries of origin, as skilled workers leave for better opportunities elsewhere. Overall, the debate about who benefits from migration due to globalization is complex and multifaceted, with both positive and negative outcomes to consider.
Globalization and Crime
- Globalization has created an environment in which crimes can transcend national boundaries and operate on a global scale. One of the reasons for the emergence of global crimes is the increasing interconnectedness of the world, which has made it easier for criminals to move people, goods, and money across borders. Human trafficking is one such crime that has increased due to globalization, as it is easier to transport victims across borders and exploit them in different countries. According to an ILO report, approximately 24.9 million people were the victim of human trafficking worldwide in 2016 (Ecker, 2022). Similarly, corporate crimes such as tax evasion and money laundering have become more prevalent in the global economy, as companies can operate across multiple jurisdictions and take advantage of differences in regulations and enforcement. Crimes against the environment, such as illegal logging and wildlife trafficking, have also increased due to globalization, as demand for resources has grown and criminals can operate across multiple countries to avoid detection. Other global crimes include cybercrime, terrorism, and drug trafficking, which have all been facilitated by the global interconnectedness of the world.
- The beneficiaries of global crimes vary depending on the type of crime. In the case of corporate crimes, such as fraud or environmental violations, the company and its executives may benefit financially by avoiding costs associated with compliance or by increasing profits through illegal means. A contemporary example of corporate crime benefiting companies and executives is the Volkswagen emissions scandal in which the company installed software to cheat emissions tests, leading to increased profits and avoiding costly compliance measures (for details, see Hotten, 2015). Similarly, in cases of corruption, government officials or individuals in positions of power may benefit personally from the illicit gains. In the case of human trafficking, the traffickers and those who exploit the victims for forced labour or sexual exploitation benefit financially from the profits generated by their illegal activities. On the other hand, the victims of trafficking suffer severe exploitation and abuse. From a Marxist perspective, the capitalist class benefits from global crimes that exploit workers, natural resources, and the environment to increase profits. In contrast, the working class and marginalized communities are negatively impacted by these crimes. From a feminist perspective, global crimes that disproportionately affect women, such as human trafficking for sexual exploitation, benefit those who profit from the exploitation of women’s labour and bodies. Patriarchal structures and gender inequalities also play a role in the perpetration and normalization of these crimes.
The discussion on globalization and its impacts has highlighted the complexity and multifaceted nature of this phenomenon. On one hand, globalization has brought about economic growth, cultural exchange, and technological advancements that have benefited people around the world. On the other hand, it has also contributed to global inequalities, environmental degradation, and various forms of crimes and exploitation. The impact of globalization is far-reaching and complex, and its effects are felt differently across societies and individuals. It is important to critically examine and address the structural inequalities and power imbalances that underlie globalization, and work towards a more equitable and sustainable global society.
Also Read: Globalisation – Key debates, concepts and perspectives
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