Exploitation is defined as ‘the action or fact of treatingsomeone unfairly in order to benefit from their work’ (Oxford Dictionary, 2017). According to theInternational Labour Organisation (ILO) (2005), there were 12.3 million victims of exploitation inthe world as of March 2005, with 9.5 million reported to work in ‘slave likeconditions’ in Asia. The most common examples of poor practices include lowwages-below those of the living wage-excessive overtime, discrimination andpreventable accidents that result in death, for example, the infamous case ofthe Rana Plaza factory in Bangladesh that collapsed in 2013, killing 1,135people (The Guardian, 2016). Globalisation accounts for the increasing global interactionbetween countries whereby goods, services, ideas, capital and culture flowinternationally (OxfordDictionary, 2017).
This process is recognised as playing an importantrole in the global diffusion of standard labour practices. The major tradingblocs in the West, for example the EU and the USA, often have higher labourstandards than countries in the developing world, and furthermore, exert morepressure on exporting nations in the Global South (Adolph, Quince and Prakash, 2017). This,however, does not mean that the West does not heavily exploit the Global South. This essay will explore how the paradigm shift from aglobalised world to a multipolar one will affect the West’s power to exploitthe Global South. First of all, it will focus on how labour regulations areinfluenced by the importing country, and how a multipolar world can affectthese standards, referring to the changes in trade partners. The topic ofpopulation will then be covered, arguing that the continued rise of globalpopulation will supply the West with more cheap labour to exploit.
This thenleads onto the contradictory argument that the rise of China, as the focus,will lessen the West’s power to exploit the Global South. Trade influence onlabour standards in exporting countries The debate over the influence of labour standards inexporting countries is still under review. Some sources argue that a ‘race tothe bottom’ approach (Anita,2003) is followed by the likes of rising superpowers such as China andIndia, which supresses the global standards of labour, whilst others suggestthat a multipolar world would allow for the Global South to have exposure tothe global market. This would create incentives for developing nations to adoptproduction practices that didn’t fall under the bracket of exploitation (Perkins and Neumayer, 2007). Importing countries in the West dominantly project higherstandards of labour regulations on exporting, mostly developing countries, whencompared with importing countries in the Global South (Adolph, Quince and Prakash, 2017). Thisinfluence of importing countries on exporting countries is termed the’California Effect’ (Vogel,1995).
This seemingly positive effect, in terms of reducingexploitation, is threatened by the rise of China. This is because global tradedynamics have changed, with China now the world’s largest exporter and secondlargest importer according to the Observatory of Economic Complexity (OEC) (2016). Adolph, Quince andPrakash (2017) explored the idea of the ‘Shanghai Effect’, contradictoryto the above mentioned ‘California Effect’, whereby African countries havebegun to lower their labour standards to comply with those of China’s, who havenow become Africa’s largest trading partner (Johnston, Morgan and Wang, 2015). Africa have donethis in order to attract investment from China, as China will want the cheapestlabour available, which is only possible if Africa continues to put downwardpressure on its wages. Unlike Western countries who often actively seek to helpwith internal affairs of its trading partners, China follows a no interferenceapproach (Jacobs, 2011;Scheipers and Sicurelli, 2008).
This too, means Africa are more likelyto export to China rather than the West because governmental concerns such ascorruption are overlooked. China’s increasing power in the global tradestructure, evidencing signs of a multipolar world, means the West cannotexploit the Global South, in particular Africa, as much because China hasbecome dominantly involved in providing jobs in the continent and so they arenow the one’s exploiting, rather than the West. The economic stagnation of the Eurozone will allow theGlobal South to gain wealth as there is less competition with foreign markets (Credit Suisse ResearchInstitute, 2017). Perkinsand Neumayer (2007) reflect that exposure to the global economyencourages exporting countries, in the developing world, to upgrade theirtechnology to increase exports, which then creates opportunities for them toengage in ideas and standards of industrial norms and practices, which oftenimproves. This argument lay on the evidence that pre-1990s, labour practices inWestern Europe tended to be of higher quality than those in Eastern and CentralEurope because the former’s economy was that of an open one whereas the latterwas closed (Perkins andNeumayer, 2007). With this stagnation, the West will be less able toexploit the Global South as investment will too, have stopped. This hindersprogress of TNCs, firms and countries who were looking for cheap foreign labourto exploit in order to make maximum profits.
In conclusion, there are two possible outcomes, in referenceto exploitation, from the world becoming multipolar. The first argument outlinedthat China will start to exploit the Global South, alongside the West, possiblymore so, whilst the second mentioned that exploitation will decrease and labourpractices will improve in a multipolar world because involvement in the globaltrading system will allow countries themselves to improve labour regulationsrather than relying on their countries of imports to do so. However, it isimportant to realise that both arguments follow the same conclusion: The Westwill be less able to exploit the Global South in a multipolar world than in aglobalised world because they no longer have as much influence.
Population Regardless of whether the world will remain in a globalisedstate or move to that of multipolar one, population rise will continue to yielda surplus of low-skilled workers. In 2017, the UN published its key findings on the world population,outlining that projected growth of the global population is currently at anincrease of 1.1% per year, or an additional 83 million people annually. One of the most notable shifts from a youthful to workingpopulation is that of India, which is said to reach prime numbers in itsworkforce in the next few years, termed reaching its demographic dividend. Reutuers (2016) claimsthat 250 million people will join India’s workforce by 2030, outstrippingChina’s additional 7 million joining the workforce each year (Chan, 2013).
As aresult, there are many opportunities for India’s economy to grow, but thisprocess can also pose problems to employment, with many falling into the informalsector: Kshetry (2013)outlined that India is responsible for about 13 million slaves. A ratio of high population to fewer jobs in the Global Southleaves a surplus of workforce. The likelihood is that the West will takeadvantage of this vulnerable population, who cannot find work and exploit themin order to gain maximum profits. This may include poor working conditions,excess in the amount of hours worked, low wages and discrimination. Exploitationis of high risk because livelihoods are reliant on these jobs provided by richcompanies, often from developed countries, and so it is difficult for workersto exercise concerns without being fired or punished, especially in China wheretrade unions are banned (Warner,2011).
Exploitation in amultipolar world With the emergence of the BRIC nations, most notably China, meaninga paradigm shift toward a multipolar world, could we see the West being lessable to exploit the Global South due to these rising powers enforcing lesslabour standards on developing nations? In particular, the rise of China has been significant in thecontext of Africa (Jacobs,2001; Schiepes and Sicurelli, 2008). Unlike the literature on theCalifornia Effect, Chinese governments exert minimal, if any, pressure onAfrican governments to uphold standard labour practices (Adolph, Quince and Prakash, 2017).The efforts of the West, who have encouraged African governments to establish standardlabour rights, have been undermined by China who have exploited Africa bysupporting corrupt regimes throughout the Sub-Saharan region (De Grauwe et al., 2012). Not only does China exploit the Global South, in particularAfrica, but it also has its own internal affairs. China has a large laboursurplus, estimated at 150 million in the working age population (15-64 years)of about 1 billion by the IMF (Magnus, 2015).
A large proportion of China’s workforce ismigratory in nature-281.7 million rural migrant labourers out of a total of 807million in 2016,according to the NationalBureau of Statistics-and non-hourly pay rates allows for a lot ofexploitation to go undetected (Chan, 2003; Chan and Siu, 2010). In addition, the China LabourBulletin argues that semi-skilled older workers (those in their 40s and 50s)face discrimination in the workplace as the influx of skilled graduates eachyear means these older workers are often not accepted for training in factoriesand are increasingly forced to find lower paid jobs, in which they are oftenexploited due to their vulnerability (Magnus, 2015). As China continues to rise, its neighbours will supresslabour standards, most notably wages, in pursuit of investment and maximumprofits as Chinese companies will relocate to the cheapest source of labour (Whitfield, 2016).
Thismechanism is termed the race to the bottom (Anita, 2003).It is evident to note that a large proportion ofexploitation is carried out by China, however, a multipolar world may not meanthe West are less able to exploit the Global South but merely means China arejoining in Conclusion Whether or not we live in the current, globalised state, ortransition to a multipolar world, exploitation’s existence will remain. This essayhas proven that the West’s exploitation of the Global South and whether thiswill lessen in a multipolar world is complex.
Firstly, labour standards werereviewed and the sources seemed to show that the West will, in fact, be lessable to exploit the Global South if the power structure were to change. This isbecause developed countries are seemingly making an effort to improve labourstandards in developing countries but the latter are resisting this help. An exampleof this is at the 1990 WTO ministerial meeting in Seattle, some EUrepresentatives and President Clinton tried to discuss workers’ rights in thenegotiations, but developing countries rejected the initiative (Burtless, 2001). This resistancemeans countries in the Global South tend to favour investments off countrieswho don’t interfere with the national labour practices, such as China, and thistherefore lessens the West’s influence on regulations, including exploitation. Secondly,a discussion about population highlighted the idea that the West will always beable to exploit the Global South and thus criticises the main argument. The finalpart of the essay looked at what exploitation would look like in a multipolarworld; which countries would be exploited and which ones would be doing theexploiting. It was clear to conclude that China was responsible for a lot ofexploitation, with a lot of their regimes undermining those of the West’s.
Inconclusion, it is difficult to know whether the West will be less able toexploit the Global South in a multipolar world because their efforts to helpimprove regulatory work practices in developing countries might in fact, coverup the exploitation they are doing themselves. In spite of the work carried outby the developed countries, a multipolar world will not lessen the West’sability to exploit developing nations because the surplus of labour is adominating, and arguably the most credible factor in the occurrence ofexploitation.