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The benefits and costs of increased trade in terms of its effect on wages are not distributed evenly across the economy. However, the growth of international trade has helped to raise the productivity of U.S. workers as a whole—and thus helped to raise the average level of wages.

Labor standards and working conditions

Workers in many low-income countries around the world labor under conditions that would be illegal for a worker in the United States. Workers in countries like China, Thailand, Brazil, South Africa, and Poland are often paid less than the United States minimum wage    . For example, in the United States, the minimum wage is $7.25 per hour; a typical wage in many low-income countries might be more like $7.25 per day, or often much less. Moreover, working conditions in low-income countries may be extremely unpleasant, or even unsafe. In the worst cases, production may involve the labor of small children or even workers who are treated nearly like slaves. These concerns over standards of foreign labor do not affect most of U.S. trade, which is intra-industry and carried out with other high-income countries that have labor standards similar to the United States, but it is, nonetheless, morally and economically important.

In thinking about labor standards in other countries, it is important to draw some distinctions between what is truly unacceptable and what is painful to think about. Most people, economists included, have little difficulty with the idea that production by six-year-olds confined in factories or by slave labor is morally unacceptable. They would support aggressive efforts to eliminate such practices—including shutting out imported products made with such labor. Many cases, however, are less clear-cut. An opinion article in the New York Times several years ago described the case of Ahmed Zia, a 14-year-old boy from Pakistan. He earned $2 per day working in a carpet factory. He dropped out of school in second grade. Should the United States and other countries refuse to purchase rugs made by Ahmed and his co-workers? If the carpet factories were to close, the likely alternative job for Ahmed is farm work, and as Ahmed says of his carpet-weaving job: “This makes much more money and is more comfortable.”

Other workers may have even less attractive alternative jobs, perhaps scavenging garbage or prostitution. The real problem for Ahmed and many others in low-income countries is not that globalization has made their lives worse, but rather that they have so few good life alternatives. The United States went through similar situations during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

In closing, there is some irony when the United States government or U.S. citizens take issue with labor standards in low-income countries, because the United States is not a world leader in government laws to protect employees. In Western European countries and Canada, all citizens are guaranteed some form of national healthcare by the government; the United States does not offer such a guarantee but has moved in the direction of universal health insurance coverage under the recent Affordable Care Act. Many European workers receive six weeks or more of paid vacation per year; in the United States, vacations are often one to three weeks per year. If European countries accused the United States of using unfair labor standards to make U.S. products cheaply, and announced that they would shut out all U.S. imports until the United States adopted guaranteed national healthcare, added more national holidays, and doubled vacation time, Americans would be outraged. Yet when U.S. protectionists start talking about restricting imports from poor countries because of low wage levels and poor working conditions, they are making a very similar argument. This is not to say that labor conditions in low-income countries are not an important issue. They are. However, linking labor conditions in low-income countries to trade deflects the emphasis from the real question to ask: “What are acceptable and enforceable minimum labor standards and protections to have the world over?”

Key concepts and summary

As international trade increases, it contributes to a shift in jobs away from industries where that economy does not have a comparative advantage and toward industries where it does have a comparative advantage. The degree to which trade affects labor markets has a lot to do with the structure of the labor market in that country and the adjustment process in other industries. Global trade should raise the average level of wages by increasing productivity. However, this increase in average wages may include both gains to workers in certain jobs and industries and losses to others.

In thinking about labor practices in low-income countries, it is useful to draw a line between what is unpleasant to think about and what is morally objectionable. For example, low wages and long working hours in poor countries are unpleasant to think about, but for people in low-income parts of the world, it may well be the best option open to them. Practices like child labor and forced labor are morally objectionable and many countries refuse to import products made using these practices.

References

Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Data Retrieval: Employment, Hours, and Earnings (CES).” Last modified February 1, 2013. http://www.bls.gov/webapps/legacy/cesbtab1.htm.

Dhillon, Kiran. 2015. “Why Are U.S. Oil Imports Falling?” Time.com. Accessed April 1, 2015. http://time.com/67163/why-are-u-s-oil-imports-falling/.

Kristof, Nicholas. “Let Them Sweat.” The New York Times , June 25, 2002. http://www.nytimes.com/2002/06/25/opinion/let-them-sweat.html.

Questions & Answers

more explanation on GDP
Isaac Reply
it is a country total out put of goods and services divided by the total population of the country.I think it can also be derived from the country labour force,,because it mostly depend on the labour force and the level of technology .
Tantoh
labour force and technological progress leads to greater production increases the GDP
Ahmed
What is economics?
Bubu Reply
by this time
Emmanuel
It is a social science that analyses production,distribution and consumption of goods and services
Emmanuel
A social science that study human behavior in relationship with decision making
Jessica
What are the typical patterns of GDP for a high-income economy like the United States in the long run and the short run?
mwangala Reply
What are the limitation and significant of macroeconomic
Usman Reply
explain the significance of concerpt of opportunity cost in planning
Mwanaid Reply
what is meant by the price elasticity of demand?
Martine Reply
when price of a commodity increase it's demand contracts , and whe the price of a commodity decreases it's demand expands so the degree of change in demand in response to change in own price of the commodity is called PED . Ed = percentage change in quantity demanded / percentage change in price
shaswat
What are the limitations of macroeconomic and their segnificant
Usman Reply
Discuss the role of competition in stimulating economic growth?
Daniel Reply
competition stimulate economic growth because in such types of economy,they is no monopoly power every supplier will want to produce to meet customers choice which brings about quality production and attract invested and customers into such economy
Koka
competition creates Monopoly because of economy of scale. it's not antithesis but different side of same coin
toko
competition result in high economic growth since every firm will intend to provide quality services and products to meet customers needs and requirements unlike in Monopoly situation where a firm just provide what it want to resulting in large stock piles of unwanted products ,ie inefficiency, howev
Mark
microeconomics study part of the economy but macroeconomic study the whole economy
Olokun Reply
studying the whole economy, solving the problem of the economy and building up the economy
Olokun
micro means small while macro means large
Olokun
standard of living is the footsteps of an economy because it plays important role for country to have crucial view about their budget ,import and export
Olokun
it will be differ because economic agent will only take their views on some part of household
Olokun
can opportunity cost be zero
OBED Reply
how many types of transportation do we have
Jacob
yes. when a customer's purchasing power is high, he may have d ability to purchase all he needs, dt makes opportunity cost zero
George
please can give more explanation on this question
OBED
what are the factors production
PETER Reply
Labour capital entrepreneurs
Leta
Land,capital, labour,and the entrepreneur
Tantoh
I will like to know use of calculus in economics
JHUMA Reply
do they use it in economics?
Pranav
I want to know if I should take calculus or statistics and probability my senior year of highschool
Yahir
yes for example in monopolistic competitive market..... TR=TC* & THIS CALCULATED BY CHANGING( DERIVATIVE LAW) MR =MC ** WILL BE THE FORMULA THAT USE.
Leta
please in which topic in economic is the question coming from.
Tantoh
from PCF in economics
Leta
why is unitary proportional to responsiveness
Etim Reply
any tip for igcse economics exam?pls
Stacey Reply
well
The
What is a market
Divine Reply
what are the variables that affect demand
Divine
what are the variables that affect demand
Divine
what are the variables that affect demand
Divine
what are the variables that affect demand
Divine
what are the variables that affect demand
Divine
price of the related goods 2 price of the given commodity 3 income of the consumer 4 taste and preference 5 expectation in the future price
John
pls the taste and preference
Nas
explain briefly
Nas
a consumer taste and preference commodity changes for a time the man becomes
John
sorry sorry
John
is when the price of a commodity becomes high and can't afford example Samsung instead of iPhone
John
consumers who have high intense for goods will purchase the goods even if the price of that commodity increases because he or she preferred that commodity.people will be prefer iphone as its price increase
Yussif
as usual bad taste of preference is when a consumer regrets from one commodity to another in terms of the price
John
thanks alot
Nas
you're welcome
John
#Preference; #Income #Test
Dereje
#price Of Commodity #Income #Taste #Preference
Dereje
#Market is The Place Where Buyers And Sellers Are Exchanging Their Goods And service. #
Dereje
difference between macro and micro economics
Lawrence
Microeconomic Study about individual consumers market But Macroeconomis Study General economic Process Such As #Aggregate Demand #Aggregate Supples #GDp= #GNp
Dereje
nice so can u run down a brife discussion on GDP
Lawrence
good
Chinex

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Source:  OpenStax, Principles of economics. OpenStax CNX. Sep 19, 2014 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11613/1.11
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