Exploitation global diffusion of standard labour practices. The

Exploitation is defined as ‘the action or fact of treating
someone unfairly in order to benefit from their work’ (Oxford Dictionary, 2017). According to the
International Labour Organisation (ILO) (2005), there were 12.3 million victims of exploitation in
the world as of March 2005, with 9.5 million reported to work in ‘slave like
conditions’ in Asia. The most common examples of poor practices include low
wages-below those of the living wage-excessive overtime, discrimination and
preventable accidents that result in death, for example, the infamous case of
the Rana Plaza factory in Bangladesh that collapsed in 2013, killing 1,135
people (The Guardian, 2016).


Globalisation accounts for the increasing global interaction
between countries whereby goods, services, ideas, capital and culture flow
internationally (Oxford
Dictionary, 2017). This process is recognised as playing an important
role in the global diffusion of standard labour practices. The major trading
blocs in the West, for example the EU and the USA, often have higher labour
standards than countries in the developing world, and furthermore, exert more
pressure 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.

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This essay will explore how the paradigm shift from a
globalised world to a multipolar one will affect the West’s power to exploit
the Global South. First of all, it will focus on how labour regulations are
influenced by the importing country, and how a multipolar world can affect
these standards, referring to the changes in trade partners. The topic of
population will then be covered, arguing that the continued rise of global
population will supply the West with more cheap labour to exploit. This then
leads 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 on
labour standards in exporting countries


The debate over the influence of labour standards in
exporting countries is still under review. Some sources argue that a ‘race to
the bottom’ approach (Anita,
2003) is followed by the likes of rising superpowers such as China and
India, which supresses the global standards of labour, whilst others suggest
that a multipolar world would allow for the Global South to have exposure to
the global market. This would create incentives for developing nations to adopt
production practices that didn’t fall under the bracket of exploitation (Perkins and Neumayer, 2007).


Importing countries in the West dominantly project higher
standards of labour regulations on exporting, mostly developing countries, when
compared with importing countries in the Global South (Adolph, Quince and Prakash, 2017). This
influence of importing countries on exporting countries is termed the
‘California Effect’ (Vogel,
1995). This seemingly positive effect, in terms of reducing
exploitation, is threatened by the rise of China. This is because global trade
dynamics have changed, with China now the world’s largest exporter and second
largest importer according to the Observatory of Economic Complexity (OEC) (2016). Adolph, Quince and
Prakash (2017) explored the idea of the ‘Shanghai Effect’, contradictory
to the above mentioned ‘California Effect’, whereby African countries have
begun to lower their labour standards to comply with those of China’s, who have
now become Africa’s largest trading partner (Johnston, Morgan and Wang, 2015). Africa have done
this in order to attract investment from China, as China will want the cheapest
labour available, which is only possible if Africa continues to put downward
pressure on its wages. Unlike Western countries who often actively seek to help
with internal affairs of its trading partners, China follows a no interference
approach (Jacobs, 2011;
Scheipers and Sicurelli, 2008). This too, means Africa are more likely
to export to China rather than the West because governmental concerns such as
corruption are overlooked. China’s increasing power in the global trade
structure, evidencing signs of a multipolar world, means the West cannot
exploit the Global South, in particular Africa, as much because China has
become dominantly involved in providing jobs in the continent and so they are
now the one’s exploiting, rather than the West.


The economic stagnation of the Eurozone will allow the
Global South to gain wealth as there is less competition with foreign markets (Credit Suisse Research
Institute, 2017). Perkins
and Neumayer (2007) reflect that exposure to the global economy
encourages exporting countries, in the developing world, to upgrade their
technology to increase exports, which then creates opportunities for them to
engage in ideas and standards of industrial norms and practices, which often
improves. This argument lay on the evidence that pre-1990s, labour practices in
Western Europe tended to be of higher quality than those in Eastern and Central
Europe because the former’s economy was that of an open one whereas the latter
was closed (Perkins and
Neumayer, 2007). With this stagnation, the West will be less able to
exploit the Global South as investment will too, have stopped. This hinders
progress of TNCs, firms and countries who were looking for cheap foreign labour
to exploit in order to make maximum profits.


In conclusion, there are two possible outcomes, in reference
to exploitation, from the world becoming multipolar. The first argument outlined
that China will start to exploit the Global South, alongside the West, possibly
more so, whilst the second mentioned that exploitation will decrease and labour
practices will improve in a multipolar world because involvement in the global
trading system will allow countries themselves to improve labour regulations
rather than relying on their countries of imports to do so. However, it is
important to realise that both arguments follow the same conclusion: The West
will be less able to exploit the Global South in a multipolar world than in a
globalised world because they no longer have as much influence.





Regardless of whether the world will remain in a globalised
state or move to that of multipolar one, population rise will continue to yield
a 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 an
increase of 1.1% per year, or an additional 83 million people annually.


One of the most notable shifts from a youthful to working
population is that of India, which is said to reach prime numbers in its
workforce in the next few years, termed reaching its demographic dividend. Reutuers (2016) claims
that 250 million people will join India’s workforce by 2030, outstripping
China’s additional 7 million joining the workforce each year (Chan, 2013). As a
result, there are many opportunities for India’s economy to grow, but this
process can also pose problems to employment, with many falling into the informal
sector: Kshetry (2013)
outlined that India is responsible for about 13 million slaves.


A ratio of high population to fewer jobs in the Global South
leaves a surplus of workforce. The likelihood is that the West will take
advantage of this vulnerable population, who cannot find work and exploit them
in order to gain maximum profits. This may include poor working conditions,
excess in the amount of hours worked, low wages and discrimination. Exploitation
is of high risk because livelihoods are reliant on these jobs provided by rich
companies, often from developed countries, and so it is difficult for workers
to exercise concerns without being fired or punished, especially in China where
trade unions are banned (Warner,


Exploitation in a
multipolar world


With the emergence of the BRIC nations, most notably China, meaning
a paradigm shift toward a multipolar world, could we see the West being less
able to exploit the Global South due to these rising powers enforcing less
labour standards on developing nations?


In particular, the rise of China has been significant in the
context of Africa (Jacobs,
2001; Schiepes and Sicurelli, 2008). Unlike the literature on the
California Effect, Chinese governments exert minimal, if any, pressure on
African governments to uphold standard labour practices (Adolph, Quince and Prakash, 2017).
The efforts of the West, who have encouraged African governments to establish standard
labour rights, have been undermined by China who have exploited Africa by
supporting corrupt regimes throughout the Sub-Saharan region (De Grauwe et al., 2012).


Not only does China exploit the Global South, in particular
Africa, but it also has its own internal affairs. China has a large labour
surplus, 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 is
migratory in nature-281.7 million rural migrant labourers out of a total of 807
million in 2016,
according to the National
Bureau of Statistics-and non-hourly pay rates allows for a lot of
exploitation to go undetected (Chan, 2003; Chan and Siu, 2010). In addition, the China Labour
Bulletin argues that semi-skilled older workers (those in their 40s and 50s)
face discrimination in the workplace as the influx of skilled graduates each
year means these older workers are often not accepted for training in factories
and are increasingly forced to find lower paid jobs, in which they are often
exploited due to their vulnerability (Magnus, 2015).


As China continues to rise, its neighbours will supress
labour standards, most notably wages, in pursuit of investment and maximum
profits as Chinese companies will relocate to the cheapest source of labour (Whitfield, 2016). This
mechanism is termed the race to the bottom (Anita, 2003).

It is evident to note that a large proportion of
exploitation is carried out by China, however, a multipolar world may not mean
the West are less able to exploit the Global South but merely means China are
joining in




Whether or not we live in the current, globalised state, or
transition to a multipolar world, exploitation’s existence will remain. This essay
has proven that the West’s exploitation of the Global South and whether this
will lessen in a multipolar world is complex. Firstly, labour standards were
reviewed and the sources seemed to show that the West will, in fact, be less
able to exploit the Global South if the power structure were to change. This is
because developed countries are seemingly making an effort to improve labour
standards in developing countries but the latter are resisting this help. An example
of this is at the 1990 WTO ministerial meeting in Seattle, some EU
representatives and President Clinton tried to discuss workers’ rights in the
negotiations, but developing countries rejected the initiative (Burtless, 2001). This resistance
means countries in the Global South tend to favour investments off countries
who don’t interfere with the national labour practices, such as China, and this
therefore lessens the West’s influence on regulations, including exploitation. Secondly,
a discussion about population highlighted the idea that the West will always be
able to exploit the Global South and thus criticises the main argument. The final
part of the essay looked at what exploitation would look like in a multipolar
world; which countries would be exploited and which ones would be doing the
exploiting. It was clear to conclude that China was responsible for a lot of
exploitation, with a lot of their regimes undermining those of the West’s. In
conclusion, it is difficult to know whether the West will be less able to
exploit the Global South in a multipolar world because their efforts to help
improve regulatory work practices in developing countries might in fact, cover
up the exploitation they are doing themselves. In spite of the work carried out
by the developed countries, a multipolar world will not lessen the West’s
ability to exploit developing nations because the surplus of labour is a
dominating, and arguably the most credible factor in the occurrence of