Establishing rights for workers has created global problems. Every country has different priorities when it comes to industry, since exports tend to be a major component in their economy. To keep up with demand, corporations pressure their employees to work long days for little compensation, knowing most are struggling to support their families. Laborers have struggled to gain rights because business thrives off profit, which increases with cheap labor. Globalization has created strong connections between countries, promoting exportation of goods and workers to maintain economic growth, which can result in the number of workers outweighing available jobs. Since many countries have not legalized unions, workers are forced to tolerate low wages, unsafe working conditions, and abuse because outsourcing threatens the security of their employment. International efforts have encouraged the protection of worker’s rights through the development of labor rights standards, but many changes are still necessary.
What is the global problem identified?
Labor rights violations are a serious problem in our global society. Many workers in third world countries and isolated regions have become victims of these violations in the workplace. Some of the worst labor rights have come from developing countries in Asia. According to the International Labor Organization, reports of these violations include wages below living wage, excessive hours and days worked per week, discrimination, verbal and physical abuse, suppression of trade unions, and preventable disasters that result in death. These problems are not only prevalent in Asia, similar issues have been reported around the world.
Trade Unions in particular have received the worst violations of labor rights. In 2016 and beyond, workers in Bangladesh, Brazil, Columbia, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Peru, and Italy, among others have been killed for their involvement in trade union activities. In Guatemala, a union leader was murdered. Not only did the government fail to give adequate protection of the leader. But they also didn’t even investigate who murdered the leader. Union leaders in Turkey have been attacked, jailed, and arrested.
Another big issue that has been brought attention to is child labor. Many young children are seen as valuable assets to businesses because they are cheap, easily manipulated, and less likely to strike against the employer. Children in the workforce has been proven to affect the child’s mental and physical health. Children in the workforce have been subjected to abuse whether verbal, physical, or sexually. A lot of times kids will end up with serious health issues such as HIV and has been reported that experience behavioral disorders.
What theories are likely to explain and indeed examine this problem?
Much of these problems can be explained because a lot of the developing countries do not have modern labor laws. A lot of these countries are without a stable government that tells businesses not to treat workers in this way. Also, a lot of the factories or places of work are not as up to date like a factories that are in the United States. They simply do not have enough money to create an adequate working environment.
Why is this global problem?
The exportation of work from the first world countries, such as the United State and Great Britain, to the developing countries and nations is not an uncommon occurrence in today’s modern global climate. Much of the exportation of the labor has gone to countries “whose governments offer tax and other incentives to other foreign investors” (Young, 2004). The global factories that produce cheap products for the developed nations have violated basic human rights and used labor practices that violate many of the moral ethics that most consumers are unaware of. It is difficult to place blame on who has caused these violations of labor rights in the global community, whether it be the countries who export the work or the factories that produced the goods. Therefore, global labor rights have become a huge global labor problem due to the violations of workers’ human rights.
Who is affected by this global problem?
The people that are affected by the violations of global labor rights can be viewed through a broad scope and through a narrower lens. In the broader lens of global labor rights, the entire country that allows these rights to be violated are affected. They sell the humanity of their workforce to produce cheap goods for the first world countries for money.
In the narrow lens there are generally two groups of people that are affected, women and children. Child labor is generally the most common form of illegal and immoral labor that these developing countries are using. The International Labor Organization estimates that 211 million children, or 18 percent of children 5–14, are economically active worldwide” (Edmonds & Pavcnik, 2005). Though not all the labor these children are doing are harmful, such as working in factories or mines, it includes working on family farms. These children are skipping into adulthood missing important developmental stages to go to work. Women are also affected by global labor rights. In apparel sweatshops much of the labor are woman. The woman are subjected to horrible working conditions and are beaten or subjected to sexual harassment if they oppose their employers.
What are its effects to humanity?
The effects of poor labor laws goes far and wide. Workers are abused, beaten, overworked, and underpaid. Because these workers aren’t making much money, if any at all, they are stuck under the poverty line living ration to ration. People get stuck in this never ending cycle of poverty.
Humanity can greatly benefit from global labor laws. They can help to limit the amount that workers are getting exploited. Implementing laws, requiring monthly audits, and major repercussions can help to minimize this issue. The protections can help to minimize the implications that this issue has on humanity.
Why is it important to understand this global problem?
It’s important to understand global labor rights, as it is a serious problem still prevalent today. There have been strides in the past to help to resolve this issue, but yet it’s still a major issue. Exploiting workers with long hours, unsafe working conditions, abusive conditions, no living wages, etc. are just a few of the problems workers are facing across the globe. Understanding these issues can help people be aware of what’s going on, and people can stop supporting companies that are partaking in these practices.
In a broader sense it’s also important to understand these issues, to make sure you’re employers are not violating your local/national labor laws themselves. According to the United States Department of Labor, every worker has the right to fair and safe working conditions. This includes, the right to form unions, no forced labor, no child labor, the elimination of discrimination in the workplace, and much more (What are worker rights).
What can be done to address this global problem i.e. what do you propose as the means of resolving it?
It is easy to identify a problem and think of potential ways to tackle it. The challenge is finding a solution that is realistic and universally supported. This is difficult because the global population is influenced by different cultures, values, and types of government, varying by country, which shapes the laws and policies they are willing to implement. Political instability is also a large barrier because no government/leader will have the power to enforce any proposed changes. Before working to change labor rights, it is essential to address global issues with human rights. It will be nearly impossible to persuade someone to give power to their employees if they do not value or believe their workers deserve certain opportunities and rights.
Even if there is positive change in legislation, “the distance between law and practice is wide,” due to the lack of enforcement of both international and national standards (Caraway, 2009). During a factory inspection in Cambodia, DiCaprio (2013) discovered some owners were surprised to hear legislation protecting labor rights existed, though it had been implemented over a year prior. She also noted that the owners did not seem to care when informed of their violations, indicating they probably would not change their practices. Employers can also take advantage of the vague writing in labor laws, finding loopholes that make it ineffective. There are many ways to violate a worker’s rights, but some that many activists focus on are inadequate wages, unsafe working conditions, and discrimination. As globalization has grown, violations of labor rights have gained attention around the globe. This has sparked international organizations like the United Nations or the International Labor Organization to develop policies to enact and provide aid to fragile states in support of protecting worker’s rights.
One of the strongest ways to encourage the creation and protection of labor rights is advocacy. Local social movements will spread awareness as well as motivate individuals to become educated on labor rights and support widespread change and better enforcement. Individuals can also think about the supply chain of their goods and choose to buy from corporations who are socially responsible, or compliant with international labor standards. Pressuring corporations by decreasing consumption and putting their reputation at stake by exposing unethical practices may force them to reevaluate their practices and the benefits they offer their workers. With so many types of media available, this pressure will hopefully force corporations to implement ethical practices, even if their only motivation is protecting their brand.
The concept of laborers working in harsh conditions with little compensation is not new, but the ways employers take advantage of their workers has changed over time. Slaves suffered through forced manual labor and long work days, little to no compensation, and abuse. Factory workers were frequently injured because of machinery, women had difficulty finding employment, once it became acceptable for them to work outside of the home, and children faced disease, injury, or possibly death while working in the coal mines. Over time, we have worked to protect laborers, establishing things like minimum wage and overtime, and continuing to expand labor rights by fighting for equality and safety in the workplace. While developed countries have embraced protecting workers, developing countries have continued to violate the labor rights that have been accepted internationally. Since corporations seek cheap labor, workers are exploited because they need to provide for their families. Even though advocacy and legislation has increased internationally, labor rights are still a very prevalent issue across the globe, with slavery and child labor still in existence and some workers barely surviving off the money they earn.
- Caraway, T. L. (2009). Labor rights in East Asia: Progress or regress? Journal of East Asian Studies, 9(2), 153-186. DOI:10.1017/S1598240800002976
- DiCaprio, A. (2013). The demand side of social protection: Lessons from Cambodia’s labor rights experience. World Development, 48, 108-119. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.worlddev.2013.03.008
- Edmonds, E. V., & Pavcnik, N. (2005). Child Labor in the Global Economy. Journal of Economic Perspectives (p. 199-220).
- International Bureau of Labor Affairs. What Are Workers’ Rights? https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/our-work/workers-rights.
- Robertson, R., Di, H., Brown, D., & Dehejia, R. (2016). Work Conditions, Work Outcomes, and Policy in Asian Developing Countries. Asian Development Bank, 497, 1-35. https://www.adb.org/sites/default/files/publication/198551/ewp-497.pdf
- Young, I. M. (2004). Responsibility and Global Labor Justice. Journal of Political Philosophy (p. 365-388). Chicago: Wiley-Blackwell.