The Future of Work: The Risks of Industrial Globalization - Pacific Standard

The Future of Work: The Risks of Industrial Globalization

The latest entry in a special project in which business and labor leaders, social scientists, technology visionaries, activists, and journalists weigh in on the most consequential changes in the workplace.
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The assembly line at an earphone factory in Shenzhen, China. (Photo: BartlomiejMagierowski/Shutterstock)

The assembly line at an earphone factory in Shenzhen, China. (Photo: BartlomiejMagierowski/Shutterstock)

What most worries me about the future for workers is that during industrial globalization, transnational corporations are buying manufacturing plants and agribusinesses. Their owners and investors, lacking a vision for social development, only exploit labor. This is particularly true of businesses from the BRICS nations—Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa—which play an increasingly dominant role in the world economy.

Evangelina Argueta is manufacturing-plants organizational project coordinator of the General Workers Central in Honduras.

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Technological advances that substitute for human labor, and our inability to adapt, are a daily challenge. The loss of employment is difficult to stop because such modernization is designed to reduce costs, increase productivity, and cut employment.

Commercial agreements and free trade treaties between developed countries and undeveloped countries are deficient in the protection of human and labor rights. The undeveloped countries offer cheap labor in exchange for precarious jobs. In addition, these corporations go to extremes to influence government agencies. The commercial treaties contribute to the degradation of work.

Of further concern is that the retirement age is rising in countries like Honduras, where 65 percent of the population is under 30. This will only result in an increase in the unemployment rate for young adults.

The low involvement of women in politics and the setback in equal opportunity working conditions is another great challenge. Despite campaigns for gender equality, we are still a long way from the government requiring and promoting fairer laws.

It worries me that every day the global supply chains demand efficiency, quality, and speed in production without investing in the prevention of labor risks and in the improvement of working conditions and standard of living of workers.

Corporate social responsibility codes and claims often hide companies’ actual behavior in the workplace. Corporations may publicize their donations to public hospitals, but their workers lack adequate medical services. Corporate social responsibility must start at home.

It is alarming that Honduran unions are enclosed in inherited organizations and methods that need urgent improvement; however, it is exciting that unions maintain basic principles such as solidarity and class-consciousness.

International reporting against abusive corporations, and alliances with organizations that protect human and worker rights, will help workers to improve their permanent employment opportunities; access to health care, safety, and basic rights such as freedom of association; and collective negotiation agreements. We must continue to fight for worker rights.

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For the Future of Work, a special project from the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University, business and labor leaders, social scientists, technology visionaries, activists, and journalists weigh in on the most consequential changes in the workplace, and what anxieties and possibilities they might produce.

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