The Human Face of Globalisation: What Will Be the Impact of the International Labour Organisation's Recently Released Report on the Social Aspects? Anver Versi Reports

By Versi, Anver | African Business, April 2004 | Go to article overview

The Human Face of Globalisation: What Will Be the Impact of the International Labour Organisation's Recently Released Report on the Social Aspects? Anver Versi Reports


Versi, Anver, African Business


Globalisation is a chimera--it changes its appearance from whatever vantage point you look at it. For some, globalisation has brought undreamt of wealth and opportunity; to others, it is a threat. To the vast majority however, globalisation is something that is happening to somebody somewhere but you can neither see it, touch it or hear it.

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What is certain is that globalisation, for better or worse, is here to stay. The only question is how to make globalisation work to the benefit of all.

"Globalisation is among the most hotly debated issues on political agendas today," says the International Labour Organisation (ILO). "The discussion, however, tends to be fragmented, with views often polarised along political or geographic lines. This lack of consensus makes it harder to develop policies at national and international levels."

It was against this background that the ILO launched the World Commission on the Social Dimension of Globalisation in February 2002. The idea was to discover the human face of globalisation--its impact on people's social lives.

The commission was co-chaired by presidents Benjamin Mkapa of Tanzania and Tarja Halonen of Finland. The 26 member commission was composed of some of the world's heavyweight thinkers from all parts of the world, including Nobel prize winner for economics, Joseph Stiglitz, Aminata Traore, Malian author, former cabinet minister and social activist, Taizo Nishimuro, chairman of the board of Japan's Toshiba Corporation and Juam Somavia, director-general of the ILO.

After two years and countless discussions with all possible people who are affected by globalisation, the commission presented its report. It is a sobering document. It confirms many of the doubts that have been expressed about globalisation, unearths several new disturbing trends and warns that unless the direction of globalisation is changed radically, we are heading for a social and economic catastrophe.

For example, it shows that the income gap between the richest and poorest countries is growing rather than diminishing. In the period 1960-62, income in poor countries averaged $212 per capita against $11,417 in the rich countries; by 2000-2002, this had increased dramatically--per capita income in poor countries rising by only $55 to $267 while income in the rich countries had risen by $20,922 to $32,339.

Therefore, while globalisation had almost doubled incomes in the rich world, its economic impact on the poor world was insignificant.

A similar pattern, which perhaps explains this anomaly in incomes, emerges when trade figures are studied. We learn that 22 industrialised countries representing only 14% of the world dominate about half the world's trade and more than half of its foreign direct investment (FDI).

Globally, unemployment continued to increase in 2003 rather than diminish as the advocates of globalisation had prophesised. Current unemployment is 185m, about 6.2% of the total labour force. This is the highest unemployment figure ever recorded by the ILO.

While growth in FDI accelerated during the early 1980s-by 2000, over 100 countries had adopted liberalisation measures towards FDI-most FDI goes to developed nations and only about 10 developing countries receive the bulk of FDI destined for the developing world.

Net overseas development assistance (ODA) flows have been decreasing and are far below the long-standing target of 0.7% of GDP of rich counties with the average now a puny 0.23%. If all developed countries had kept to their pledge of devoting 0.7% of their GDP to help poor countries, over the last 30 years an additional $2.5 trillion would have been available for development. The world would have been a better, healthier and wealthier place today.

The message is clear: While globalisation has been working for a small minority of the world's population, the majority have seen no benefit and are even worse off now than before. …

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