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Saving economic globalisation from itself

Why working people have such a distrust of the global environment – Sharan Burrow of the International Trade Union Confederation.

NASTASSIA ARENDSE:  The World Economic Forum is taking place in Davos, Switzerland. While the benefits of international trade and investment were promoted globally, the social and economic costs to some communities were ignored. Can a renewed focus on its damaging local effects save economic globalisation from itself? These are the comments from Sharan Burrow, who is Secretary-General at the International Trade Union Confederation.

SHARAN BURROW:  We are certainly not anti-globalisation, but the current model has failed working people. The model of globalisation means the world is three times richer than it was 30 years ago. That’s a good thing. But it hasn’t been shared. We have historic inequality, we have massive unemployment, and that wealth has been built off a global model that is based on low pay, and insecure and often unsafe work. 

When you want to know what that looks like, 94% of our supply chains where that model dominates, is actually a hidden workforce. No CEO takes direct responsibility. In fact, only a few CEOs actually follow the UN guiding principles for business and human rights and do due diligence and make their supply chains transparent, and put a remedy in place.

Others come out of Ethiopia. I can tell you I met a woman there last week called Yashi. That’s not about high-tech or new tech, by the way, it’s about the next wave of low technology in textile manufacturing sweeping into Ethiopia. She earns US$20 a month. She tries to feed three children on that. I told the prime minister and the CEOs of the textile companies we all know well – the European and American brands – they could afford to pay four times that and still pay less than Bangladesh. You know the story of Bangladesh.

And so when I tell you what little it would take to actually reinvigorate people’s trust, it would take US$50 a month in the poorest countries in Asia, it would take doubling the normal wages, quadrupling…wage in Africa. It would take a little more than US$50 in Latin America. But when you know that corporations earn up to $17 000 in profit for every supply-chain worker, their direct employees and their hidden workforce, why is it that we can’t share that prosperity?

And then when I tell you that 75% of the world’s people have little or no social protection and yet, as I said, the world’s three times richer and it will cost less than 6% of GDP, why are we perpetuating a model that is in fact exploitative, and why is it that people wonder why working people have such a distrust of the global environment?

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