Econbitc Essay, Research Paper
Women and the Global Assembly Line – discrimination women men business jobQuestion #1: Women and the Global Assembly LineA) Discuss the multi-faceted reasons (political, social, etc.) why womenin developing countries might be willing to work for lower wages andunder more onerous conditions? In today s global marketplace, women are becoming more recognizedas a labor force. In the past, it has always been men who were thebreadwinners. Today, due to various social, political, and economicreasons, women are becoming the primary breadwinners in less developedcountries. This sounds like an encouraging statistic to woman s rightsgroups around the world. However, these women are being exploited,rather than appreciated. They are being exploited by multi-nationalcorporations, which relocate their manufacturing sectors to LDC s. Inthe LDC s, MNC s are able to find lower labor costs and therefore, lowerproduction costs. Because it is assumed that women are economically dependent on men,their attempts to gain access to jobs are frequently seen as means tosupplement the income of a male head of household. Therefore, thedifferentials in the wages earned by men and women are often a reflectionof the belief that men should earn more because they have families tosupport, while the latter merely add to the gains of husbands andfathers. (Fernandez-Kelly, p. 88) Managers justify paying women workers less by imagining that women aremerely secondary wage earners in their families. They assume that men –as fathers and husbands — are the breadwinners.’ This presumptionprevails not just in popular thinking, but in the statistical reports ofbodies such as the national census bureau, the World Bank, anddevelopment agencies. (Enloe, p. 162-3) There are many other factors that contribute to the exploitationof women. The situation of women in labor markets bears greatresemblance to that of migrants. Fernandez-Kelly believes in both casesindividuals enter the labor force without a legitimizing ideology thatpromotes their equitable treatment (p. 88). Migrant workers arerestricted in that they are working illegally, therefore they mustcompromise with lower wages. Women are restricted in the above breadwinner philosophy, therefore, they must compromise with lowerwages also. When they acquire jobs, the members of both groups are oftenseen with suspicion and hostility, as it is presumed that they competeunfairly against the members of a predominantly male working class. Single women are often exploited the most. Managers often seeyoung single women in light of the marriage factor,” which they use tosuppress wages. …the single woman is not a serious member of the labor force becauseshe intends to work only until she finds a husband and settles down,’supported by him. Therefore, she does not need to be paid as if she werea career worker. (Enloe, p. 164)This belief by managers is prevalent in almost all LDC s where MNC soperate. It is their justification of their exploitation. Women are willing to work for these low wages because they haveno other choice. The world is changing rapidly, and many countries aregoing through the industrial revolution that the US went through in thelate 1800 s. However, technology is much more sophisticated, due to theintervention of foreign companies. The men in these LDC s are oftenunable to obtain labor positions because they are unskilled. The menthat are employed are often educated, and they work in thesupervisory-management sector. The unskilled, assembly-line work is leftto the women of the country. The older women are unable to fulfill thejob requirements because of their lack of stamina, and they often remainat home to raise the family s children. In most LDC s, two to threegenerations live together — simply as a means for survival. This leavesno one else to be the breadwinner, but the young daughter or wife. Noone else is qualified, because the corporations are able to pay women thelowest wages. Since they are able to justify paying young, single womenthe lowest wages, they are the only ones they hire. And therefore, sincethe young women are the only ones qualified to be the breadwinners,they must accept their wage and onerous conditions to survive. B) Discuss the effects of this employment pattern on men and women indeveloping countries. Women are rapidly displacing men in unskilled labor. It is notsimply because they are better, not because they are more efficient –but because they are willing to work for lower wages. They have nochoice but to work for low wages, as I have described above. Sincecorporations are hiring mostly women for manufacturing positions, this isdisplacing much of the male working-population. Education and skilledlabor are not revered in LDC s as it is in the US. Citizens of LDC s donot have the opportunity for education to acquire a skill. Many childrenmust begin working when they are still young, simply to provide for theirfamily. Children and young women are being forced by political,economic, and social factors to work for their families. Politically, the governments of LDC s are encouraging foreigninvestment because they need the industry, the income, the jobs. Multi-national corporations are taking advantage of the LDC s low-costlabor and moving their manufacturing sectors to the LDC s. The primaryaspect which LDC s possess is low-cost labor. Many MNC s (in thetextile, electronics, and apparel industries) are labor-intensiveindustries. Since labor costs are such a large portion of theirexpenses, cheaper labor is a huge incentive for MNC s to relocate. Therefore, the governments of LDC s work with corporate managers to keepwages low. Economically, LDC s need foreign investment to survive. Manyfamilies do not have enough to eat, and unskilled labor is hard to find. Sons and daughters are too busy working for the family s welfare to goto school. Therefore, they will too be characterized as unskilled labor. Any job is a blessing, so many young people (with high stamina) areforced into these manufacturing jobs, simply to provide for theirfamilies. Socially, there is a problem in historical conceptions. Women inThird World societies have historically been the home-makers and themothers. They never needed to work outside of the home because theyalready had a breadwinner, their husband. Many women are enjoying thisnew found freedom to work. Women now have the opportunity to earn theirown income. Much is made of the fact that women can now spend money onclothes, cosmetics, jewelry and entertainment. (Fernandez-Kelly, p. 133) Now that women have the opportunity to be the breadwinner, they are ableto make their own decisions. This again strengthens women s freedom,causing another incentive to work. These political, economical, and social factors are changing theworkforce of many LDC s. Many men can be seen in urban areas withoutjobs. There simply are not jobs available for them. The governmentshave no money to develop infrastructure-building jobs. It may bepossible that LDC s will begin to develop infrastructure once theyacquire enough capital, but to acquire capital, they must allow MNC s toexploit their women-dominated labor-force. C) Discuss the obstacles facing these women in asserting their rights toform unions and to secure better wages and working conditions. Women are often discriminated against in today s workplace. Since they have only recently entered the job market, it is difficult forthem to get the respect they deserve. Men discriminate against thesewomen because they are displacing them and taking their jobs. It is hardto like someone when they are threatening to your job. However, I seewomen as a motivating factor, provoking men to enhance their skills to bethe most qualified. In third world countries, this is not the motivatingbehind discrimination of women. MNC s are simply in negotiations withthe government to suppress womens and workers rights so they willcontinue to work in under their present conditions. The governments tryto keep wages as low as possible. The government must then supportwhatever the corporations want so they will remain in the LDC. It is very difficult for women in LDC s to form a union. If theyare suspected of aspiring to form a worker’s union, they will be fired orpunished. They are in desperate need of their job to survive, beingfired is their worst fear. Therefore, they often suppress their opinionsabout their working conditions and go on working under the iron hand ofthe corporations. Question #2: Free TradeA) Present briefly but carefully the central points of the neoclassicalcase for free trade. Neoclassical economists believe that free trade is best. It isquite simple to see their argument. If a country is endowed with certainadvantages (i.e. technology, land, labor) it should utilize thoseadvantages to their utmost capacity. For instance, let us compare theUnited States, which is more efficient in the production of computers,with Mexico, which is more efficient in the production of clothing. Before trade, the US will produce an equal number of units of clothingand computers. The situation is also the same in Mexico, they willproduce equal amounts of each. After trade, the US will produce morecomputers and export them to Mexico in exchange for clothing, which ischeaper to buy from Mexico than it is to produce in the US. Mexico will
to the opposite, by producing more clothing, exporting them to the US,and importing computers that are cheaper to buy than to produce. If people could work in only one industry and occupation, then freetrade would indeed preclude maintaining American wages much above(Mexican) levels if (Mexican) workers were as good as Americans . . .But, in fact there are many industries and occupations. If Americaconcentrates its employment in the industries and occupations it doesbest, American wages can remain far above (Mexican) wages for a long time– even though the two nations trade freely. (Blinder, p. 114) Through the previous illustration, it is easy to see that freetrade allows for specialization, which in turn leads to an increase inefficiency. This is because as a country becomes more accustomed toproducing one product, rather than two, it becomes better (or morespecialized) at it. The larger the market, the more specialized itwill become. (DeMartino, Oct. 23) This is due to the increased need toproduce certain products which the country is more efficient atproducing. Another aspect of the Neoclassical view is that wages aredirectly correlated with productivity (DeMartino, Oct. 30) That is, asproductivity increases, wages will increase also. Proof of thisphilosophy is represented by the United States workforce. US workers arehighly productive, due to many factors, and therefore receive higherwages than workers in LDC s. So in general, neoclassical economistsbelieve that free trade promotes specialization; increases the size ofthe market and altogether promotes efficiency. B) Present the arguments that are sometimes made in favor ofprotectionism, and the neoclassical rebuttal to these arguments. Protectionism is a very controversial topic in the US today. High-cost producers, who would otherwise succumb to competition, areable to survive. Most foreign countries today have protectionistpolicies against the US. That is, they have high tariffs to protecttheir industries from our lower prices. Three characteristics in supportof protectionism are: 1. It is very politically popular. 2. The benefits are concentrated. 3. The consequences are widespread, diffused, and very small percapita. (DeMartino, Nov. 5)Domestic firms and politicians are generally the most supportive ofprotectionism. Firms doing business here in the US support it becauseprotectionism raises prices of imports, making them more expensive thandomestic goods. Therefore, US goods are in higher demand due to lowerprices. Politicians often support protectionism to obtain votes. Votesare cast by citizens who are ignorant of the long-term effects ofprotectionism. They think that it is better to buy American. If foreignproducts prices are lower, people are encouraged to buy foreignproducts. Therefore, through protectionism foreign products prices arehigher than American prices and people are encouraged to buy American. When looking through the eyes of the Global Marketplace,protectionism is bad… First, trade restrictions allow high-cost producers, who would otherwisesuccumb to competition, to survive. Thus protectionism is a peculiarform of welfare for corporations that not only raises prices toconsumers, but also make American industry more slovenly and lessproductive. (Blinder, p. 118)The weakest firms and industries are always the ones who cry forprotectionism. They cannot compete in the global marketplace due tofactors such as: high labor costs, high administrative costs, or highoperation costs in general. In other countries it may be cheaper toproduce the same product, thus the US firm cries for help from thegovernment so as to make them more competitive. Second, the costs of protectionism spill over into other industries. Ironically, one factor contributing to the plight of our auto industry in1981 was that the US government was protecting a variety of industries –like steel, textiles, and ball bearings — that sell their wares toautomobile manufacturers, thereby foisting high costs on our autoindustry . . . the consumer pays for them all. (Blinder, p. 118) However, many firms are ignorant of this phenomenon. They aremore worried about their own well-being, rather than the US as a whole,or even their industry. We must remember that profit is the primarymotivation, and your own gain is often a result of someone s loss. Today s business world is a cut-throat marketplace, many firms andindustries must do everything in their power to stay alive. They cannotlook at their long-term positions because they are struggling to survivein the short-term. Many industries are strong enough to look into thelong-term (i.e. computers), but many are unable. Thirdly, foreign nations do not always stand idly by while we protectour industries. When we slapped a quota on textile imports from China in1983, the Chinese reacted by reducing their imports of American chemicalsand farm products. When we raised the duties on specialty steel importedfrom Europe in 1983, the Common Market countered by imposing traderestrictions on American rifles, burglar alarms, and skis among otherthings. (Blinder, p. 119) This shows that protectionism may superficially seem harmless athome, but abroad it is affecting prices of imports. It is all a cycle,showing that protectionism does nothing but hurt the economy as a whole. Once again you can see that the narrow-mindedness of US firms ends uphurting the economy as a whole. Global competition must be establishedover a long period of time. We must seek to understand the long-termgoals of the global economy. Finally, the little-understood effect of trade barriers on the value ofthe dollar may be the most basic reason for rejecting protectionism, forit suggests that we protect some industries only by jeopardizing others .. . Thus, when all is said and done, protecting favored Americanindustries from foreign competition winds up subjecting unfavoredindustries to even more fearsome foreign competition. (Blinder, p. 119) To illustrate this phenomenon, I will relate the followingscenario. Suppose we are successful in restricting imports. Americansspend less on foreign goods, and so fewer dollars are offered for sale onthe world s financial markets. As the dollar becomes scarcer, its pricenaturally rises relative to other currencies. At that point theunprotected industries start to suffer,. because a higher dollar makes USexports more expensive to potential foreign customers. American exportsthen sag. C) Evaluate the debate over protectionism (i.e. is the neoclassical caseagainst protectionism compelling? Why/why not?) I think protectionism will exist into the future. Corporationsare very successful at motivating the government to help them profit. Protectionism is also viewed by many as good, mainly because they do notfully understand the global economy. It is very difficult to take a stepback and view the long-term effects when we, as a society, live in theshort-term. Proof of being a short-term society is seen in our vastexploitation of credit. Americans use credit for everything, fromcollege to lunch — anything goes. What the US needs to get away from protectionism is TradeAdjustment Assistance. This could entail any of the following: 1. Income Protection (DeMartino, Oct. 30). This would entail asort of program to keep wages high for American workers, regardless offoreign competition. Global competition would eventually evaporate thisprogram because it would no longer be needed. Global competition willone day make items in Singapore competitively prices with a similarproduct in the US. 2. Training (DeMartino, Oct. 30). To educate workers to keep upwith technology and the workings of the world. Through wide-scaletraining and education, the problem of ignorant workers would beeliminated. They could then see the bigger picture, the importance ofgoals for the long-run, and they could see the importance of workingtogether as a nation to promote the economy. 3. Business Adjustment Assistance (DeMartino, Oct. 30). Thiswould entail a program helping to cut productivity costs. Businesseswould then be able to compete with the lower-wage factor of LDC s. Thistype of program would also evaporate with global competition since wagesand prices will eventually equal out all over the globe. That is, if acountry is going to be competitive in the global marketplace, they mustoffer comparable prices and wages (i.e. prices and wages similar to theones found in the US). 4. Relocation Assistance (DeMartino, Oct. 30). This isnecessary for workers to prevent such occurrences as Flint, MI. In anideal world, free mobility of labor is good. However, it is verydifficult for many workers to mobilize from their current locations. Many have families, some are held by family tradition, financial reasons,and culture will always affect mobility. Thus, the government mustinstitute a program to assist in free mobility of labor. It is adifficult program to enact, but could include such aspects as financialassistance, family counseling, and a sort of assistant to help the familyadjust to the move (i.e. finding schools for children, finding work forother members of the family). Countries of the world differ dramatically in standards. Somecountries believe highly in the family (Mexico), their religion (Israel),or profit (US). What we revere as a goal to strive for may not even be aconsideration for another. So foreign countries are going to have toadopt American perspectives to succeed in the new global marketplace. Most likely, a compromise between standards will be met and abided by. Nevertheless, differences in standards complicates free-trade. Globalcompetition will eventually rule the global markets, but protectionism isnot the road we need to be on to reach this goal. What must occur ismore along the lines of the four points I described previously. If thisTrade Adjustment Assistance Policy is employed, we will be driving aPorsche down the highway to global competitiveness.