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Is current human rights discourse Western in a parochial sen

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Will Wentworth

on 18 March 2014

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Transcript of Is current human rights discourse Western in a parochial sen

Does the international division of labour promote or reduce international inequality? Discuss some examples.
Classical Concept
Adam Smith
David Ricardo

Comparative advantage says that an international division of labour is mutually beneficial.
Path to Prosperity?
The pace and scale of China's economic transformation have no historical precedent... In December 1978, the government decided on a general policy of Gaige Kaifang or reform and opening up...Since then, China's real per capita GDP has grown at an average rate exceeding 8 percent per year. This rapid and sustained improvement in average living standard has occurred in a country with more than 20 percent of the world's population.

Zhu, Xiaodong. 2012. "Understanding China's Growth: Past, Present, and Future." Journal of Economic Perspectives, 26(4): 103-24.

By globalisation, I mean the compression of the time and space aspects of social relations, a phenomenon that allows the economy, politics and culture of one country to penetrate another.
What Does it Look Like?
New International Division of Labour
Mittleman, J. H. (1995). "Rethinking the International Division of Labour in the Context of Globalisation." Third World Quarterly
Transition begins in the mid 20th century.

What we consider sweat shop labour. Transfer of low skilled manufacturing jobs to developing regions to take advantage of abundance of cheap labour, less industry regulation.

Corporate ownership, along with 'more skilled' white collar jobs retained in wealthy nations.
Colonial International Division of Labour
Focused on the extraction of raw resources from colonies/third world, to be taken back to Europe/America for value-added manufacturing.
Multinational Corporations

Supply/commodity chains

Vertical and horizontal

Labour migration

Weakening of state power/sovereignty?
Global Inequality
Since the 1980s global wealth has consistently become concentrated in the hands of fewer and fewer countries and individuals.

The wealth of the one percent richest people in the world amounts to $110 trillion. That’s 65 times the total wealth of the bottom half of the world’s population

Seven out of ten people live in countries where economic inequality has increased in the last 30 years.

The richest one percent increased their share of income in 24 out of 26 countries for which we have data between 1980 and 2012
Debate Time
Is the international division of labour a good thing for less developed countries?

Do the categories of Core and Periphery still accurately describe the international division of labour?

Is inequality innately bad, or is it more important to simply make sure that people are above a minimum standard of living?

Implications for Workers
Geographical expansion vastly increases access to labour force, creating a global surplus of unskilled labour. Forces countries to compete for export contracts.

Labour migration and the model of MNCs outsourcing employment to contractors also contribute to the precarious nature of many of these jobs.

Unionisation is punished. Disempowered labour force.
Under the Labor Protection Act only Thai nationals may form unions, but migrant workers may only join unions formed and led by Thais.

That said, there are serious limits to the opportunities for migrant workers to make demands on either their employers or state authorities
Arnold & Pickles 2011, "Global Work, Surplus Labour and the Precarious Economies of the Border".
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