The effect of globalization on jobs and wages

When watching Robert Reich’s Inequality for All, I learned that I made an incorrect assumption about the effects of globalization.

One part of me cannot begrudge the opportunity that globalization gives others in developing countries to get out of poverty and have a better standard of living. On the other hand, being American, I look around me and see the effect globalization has had on our standard of living and our economy.

I recoil from those who insist that I give preference to the former. I have been told that I should praise globalization and the improved standard of living that others throughout the world now enjoy. Even if it means that I become unemployed because my job went overseas.

Against this backdrop, I am ambivalent about globalization. Yes, good for others. No, not so good for us in the US. Jobs in the US have been whittled away over the decades.

Or have they? According to Reich, globalization hasn’t actually reduced the number of jobs in the US, but it has drastically changed the type of jobs available. These jobs do not pay the same as the jobs lost.

This points to a pet peeve of mine: the employment numbers touted to measure the health of the economy. Our employment numbers measure the wrong things. They measure the number of jobs created, but do not reflect what types of jobs these are or if these jobs pay a living wage. We assume that things look up when the numbers are up. But this may not tell the true story: people may be working jobs that pay less. They may be struggling to maintain their standard of living, or even just have food to eat and a roof over head. That, I would argue, is not the sign of a healthy economy.

Am I still ambivalent about globalization? Yes. But now I realize that the damage done to the US by globalization is not the loss of jobs per se but the loss of jobs that pay a higher, and perhaps a living, wage.

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