[afmdiscussion] Fwd: Re: [saymaListserv] Fwd: Globalization and the Poor: Do Quakers have a realistic view of world poverty?

Julia Ewen jewen at bellsouth.net
Sun Apr 3 17:38:07 JEST 2005



Thanks to Janet for a very interesting and helpful letter, in which she
wrote in part.
citing Bhagwati:

>Japanese male executives were first sent to the US with
> their wives and children.  Wives saw how women lived, worked and went
> to college in the US and began slowly pressuring for similar
> opportunities in Japan, as did the wives of college and graduate
> students after they returned home. (Remember that now, in 2005, many,
> many more countries where multinationals are operating are sending
> their foreign executive personnel with their families to live and
> work in the US for awhile, and 60% of the students in US graduate
> schools are foreign students who often bring their wives and children
> along, just as the Japanese did).
>
> Similarly, Japanese men learned back then during their time in the
> US, and continue to learn more significantly over time that the old
> habits of paying women lower wages for the same work that men did was
> no longer acceptable.  They have learned that "prejudice has its
> price: any firm that indulges in it is going to be at a competitive
> disadvantage to firms that hire without this prejudice....Now if
> there is a closed economy and all domestic firms share this prejudice
> (and pay women a lower wage) all firms will be equally handicapped.
> But when we introduce foreign competition, the foreign firms that do
> not share this prejudice will be able to gain in competitiveness
> against domestic firms....Liberalized trade which enables foreign
> firms to compete with domestic firms in open markets, therefore, puts
> pressure on domestic firms to shed their prejudice. The gender wage
> gap will then be reduced in industries that must compete with imports
> produced by unprejudiced firms elsewhere."

This has IMHO also been happening regarding women from the predominantly
Muslim countries, who have met American Muslim women who are freer
in their dress and privileges (rights) and inclination to challenge male
traditional interpretation and doctrine and male authority. It has helped
fuel the already burgeoning women's rights movements "back home"

> This same principle applies even more widely now, both in regard to
> multinationals who move production abroad to take advantage of a
> lower wage structure and to the process of outsourcing to cheaper
> labor markets. Multinationals and outsourcers have easy access to
> traditional domestic labor forces as long as they they pay somewhat
> higher wages and provide equal wages for equal work. In the rest of
> the globalizing world both women and minorities in countries whose
> producers have traditionally paid lower wages on the basis of sexual,
> class, caste or color prejudices are experiencing a progressively
> rising wage scale and a higher standard of living.  If a woman or
> minority worker's current domestic employer won't pay them adequately
> they can go to the other side of town, or even move to the outskirts
> of a nearby city, and work for a higher wage for a multinational or a
> domestic company with an outsourcing contract.  To counter the loss
> of trained laborers in this manner, domestic producers must adjust
> their wages and their discriminatory hiring and benefits policies to
> retain their workers. This opening up of foreign labor markets
> ultimately produces the impressive statistics I cited in my first
> message about the significant and continuing reduction of world
> poverty in those countries which are in process of globalizing.

Here is where I have a question or two.

I agree that American or Western businesses can easily outbid local
companies
for these offshore workers' labor--and do--and still be considerably under
the rates they would have to pay in the US. However, just because they offer
these
women more wages than the local companies offer, it does not follow that
these women are paid equal to the male workers hired by the American or
Western company. Since the women are used to accepting lower pay than men,
there is every incentive for US companies to continue paying them less than
men,
 even though the total wage context is higher than the local custom. As far
as I know,
US laws and regulations regarding equal pay, fair employment practices and
safe/healthy
working conditions do not apply offshore--which is a large element in
motivating
US companies to go offshore for labor. American companies might continue to
voluntarily
honor equal pay practices among executives and consultants exported from the
US to
supervise or monitor the offshore business, but the ordinary worker might
not
be aware of same, or if aware, might not conclude that executive pay had any
relationship to labor wages.

Is there any reliable data in these sources, Janet, or any others, about how
often
US companies exhibit the high degree of altruism needed to pay women equally
and eschew child labor when there are no laws or penalties in these
countries?
And has the Bush administration suddenly gotten a case of conscience and
passed
massive tax credits and incentives for paying foreign labor more than
absolutely necessary
in order to advance female equality and eliminate child labor??? Just
asking...





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