Globalisation (Edexcel AS)


What is Globalisation?

Globalisation is the process of the worlds economies, political systems and cultures becoming more strongly connected to each other

  • The process of globalisation involves the increase in the flows of people, ideas, goods/services and capital between countries on a world wide scale
  • In recent years with the advance in techonology and communication methods these global flows have intestified and the process of globalisation has sped up
  • As a result of the increase in globalisation we now experience a must greater level of economic integration and we can see that countries have closer economic ties to each other

The World Bank has summorised it as being: "It might mean sitting in your living room in Estonia while communicating with a friend in Zimbabwe. It might mean taking a Bollywood dance class in London. Or it might be symbolized in eating Ecuadorian bananas in the European Union.” 

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Different Branches of Globalisation

There are different strands of globalisation that all help to increas interdependence and interconnectedness. Those strands of globalisation are:

  • Economic Globalisation- The growth of Transnation Corporations (TNCs) and the rapid growth of global markets and world trade
  • Cultural Globalisation- The growth of global culture and the glocalisation of products (Glocalisation: the adaptation of globally distributed goods or services in order to make them suitable for locak needs)
  • Political Globalisation- This takes the form of the dominance of Western democracies in political and economic decision making. 
  • Social Globalisation- Can be seen in the advance of social media and the increase of communication methods worldwide and also by migrant families 
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Global Flows

Globalisation has help to spread the flow of ideas, people, products and capital worldwide. There are 5 main 'global flows' that globalisation has helped to increase:

  • Information- such as data transfered between businesses and people, often using the internet
  • Capital- the flow of money between people, banks, businesses and governments
  • Commodities- the products we all buy in shops, many of which have been imported from different countires
  • Tourists- The increase in transport has helped for tourism for different parts of the world to increase
  • Migrants- Globalisation has made it easier for the flow of migrants to increase 
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Transport and Trade

The developments in transports and trade have been a key driving force in the growth of globalisation in recent years. They have encouraged growth in trade because it became easier to transport people and products around the world and over time it has also become cheaper.

Case Study: EasyJet 

  • Easy Jet have made flying cheaper in recent year with them offering "£29" one way plane tickets. They have been able to provide plane tickets that are cheaper than a pair of jeans 
  • They also show how much transport has changed by the amount of people they transport each year. In 2014 they carried 65 million passengers on their 200 areoplanes
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The Development of transport and technology

The developments in technology have only helped to accelerate globalisation. The developments in technology are:

  • Railways- Steam trains quickly replaced the use of horse drawn carriages and canal transport methods
  • Telegraphs- Electric telegraph was the first technology used for long-distance, instant communication technology
  • Steam Ships- These replaced sailing ships and increased speed and cargo capacity to help grow trading 
  • Jet Passenger aircrafts- Reduced travel time for passengers to travel worldwide in a matter of hours rather than days. These replaced steam ships
  • Containerisation- Dramatically speeded up goods trade and reduced costs, making consumer goods cheaper
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The Development of transport and technology

The development of the Shipping Container:

  • The development of shipping containers in the 1960s was very important. Before the containers, cargo was load in to crates/stacks into the hold of ships maually. Now shipping containers are loaded and unloaded by crane. 
  • They are inter-modal so can be transported by ship, lorry or train 

The Development of IT

  • Mobile phones and Internet access became widespread from the mid-1990s and are now common in many developing countries with 50% of the worlds population now using the internet
  • The global network of fibre optic cables has allowed instant, global communication 
  • Satellite TV has meant popular stations are now available worldwide
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The Shrinking World

Shrinking World: The idea that because of the advances of the technology in today's world has made the world appear to be smaller than it actually is due to the fact that we have everything we need within a touch of a button. 

  • Developments in transport have created a 'Shrinking World' because places are closer together in terms of travel time and knowledge of distant places is widespread so they feel less 'exotic'
  • The speed and ease of moving around the world has reduced the friction of distance between places as well as dramtically lowering the cost of trade
  • The ease of communication as well because of the development in technology have made the world feel smaller as we can now easily communicate with people on the other side of the world which helps TNCs to operate
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The Time-Space Compression

Time-Space Compression- The idea that the cost, in terms of time or money, of communicating over distance has fallen rapidly, so the idea of them being 'a long way away' is irrelevant in terms of the ability to communicate with them. 

  • A huge number of social networking applications means that people can stay in touch and communicate with people in a way never before experienced

The internet and mobile communications improvements have been important to businesses as they can:

  • Keep in touch will all parts of their production, supplu and sales network locally and globally 
  • Transfer money anf investments instantly 
  • Instantly analyse data on sales, employees and orders from anywhere
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Trade and Investment

Foregin Direct Investment- When a business from one country invests in another such as opening a chain of shops or building a factory

World Trade Organisation (WTO)- The international organisation that works to reduce trade barriers and create free trade 

International Monetary Fund (IMF)- Since 1945 the IMF has worked to promote global economic and financial stability, and encourage more open economies. Part of this involves encouraging developing countries to accept FDI and open up their economies to free trade. 

World Bank- the World Bank's role since 1944 has been to lend money to the developing world to fund economic development and reduce poverty. It has helped developing countries develop deeper ties to the global economy but has been criticised for having policies that put economic development before social development.

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A number of organisations have helped promote free trade and end 'protectionism'. Protectionism is the theory or practice of shielding a country's domestic industries from foreign competition by taxing imports.

In the past many countries protected their own industries and businesses by:

  • Demanding payment of taxes and tariffs on imported goods, so making them more expensive than home-produced goods
  • Using quotas to limit the volume of imports, protecting home producers from foreign competition
  • Banning foreign firms from operating in services like banking, retail and insurance
  • Restricting, or banning, foreign companies from investing in their country
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How Governments have promoted Globalisation

Most governments actively seek global connections in the belief that trade promotes economic development and wealth. Governments can promote globalisation in a number of ways:

  • Joining free trade blocs- Such as the European Union (EU) and Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), which make trade barrier-free between member states and in the case of the EU allows free movement of people between countries.
  • Opening up markets to competition- In many countries certain industries are protected or even operate as a monopoly such as national rail networks, postal services or electricity generation. Since 1980 there has been a move towards free market liberalisationwhich has created competition in once restricted markets.
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How Governments have promoted Globalisation

  • Privatisation- This is the transfer of a business, industry, or service from public to private ownership and control. Since the 1980s many governments have sold off industries they once owned ('nationalised industries'). In the UK the steel, car, electricity, gas and water industries were all state-owned but are now all privately owned.
  • Grants and loans- to promote globalisation grants and loans are often made to new businesses (business start-ups) especially in areas that are seen to be globally important growth areas such as ICT development, pharmaceuticals or renewable energy. 
  • Foreign Direct Investment- In emerging countries there is a long history of attempts by governments to promote particular regions as ideal locations for FDI. Beginning around 1980, countries such as China, India, Mexico and the Philippines began to create special economic zones (SEZs), free-trade zones (FTZs) or export processing zones (EPZs).
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Special Economic Zones (SEZs)

Special Economic Zones are areas in which business and trade laws are different from the rest of the country. SEZs and similar models are attractive to FDI for a number of reasons:

  • They are tariff and quota free, allowing manufactured goods to be exported at no cost
  • Unions are usually banned, so workers cannot strike or complain
  • Infrastructure such as port facilities, roads, power and water connections are provided by the government, providing a subsidy for investors and lowering their costs
  • All profits made can be sent to the company HQ overseas
  • Taxes are usually very low, and often there is a tax-free period of up to 10 years after a business invests
  • Environmental regulations are usually limited
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Case Study: SEZs in China

China led the way in creating Special Economic Zones when in 1978 it decided on an Open Door Policy towards FDI and in 1980 created the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone:

  • SEZs have contributed hugely to the 'made in China' as seen on most products in western countries as FDI has poured into that country in the last 30 years. Western consumers benefit from low-cost goods but there are question about pay and working conditions of employees in SEZs and many TNCs have come under criticism because of them
  • Apple was subject to negative publicity in 2010 when working conditions in its supplier factories (owned by Foxconn) making iPhones and iPads came under scrutiny
  • In many Chinese SEZs wages are now high by global standards and countries like Vietnam are more competitive
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The KOF Index

The KOF index measures the degree of globalisation of countries on an annual basis. It measures three aspects of globalisation:

  • Economic globalisation measured by cross-border trade, investment and money flows
  • Social globalisation measured by international telephone calls, tourist flows, resident foreign population and access to foreign internet, TV, media and brands
  • Political globalisation measured by foreign embassies in a country, the number of international organisations the country is a member of and trade and other agreements with foreign countries

The most globalised countries tend to be European, relatively small and often involved in import/export trade. Many of the most globalised countries have culturally mixed populations and have many of their residents living abroad, as well as foreigners in their country.

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The AT Kearney Global Cities Index

The AT Kearney Global Cities Index measures how economically successful cities are.

  • The rankings is established by analysing each city's business activity, cultural experience and political engagement. The data supporting this also includes a count of the number of TNC headquarters, museums and foreign embassies respectively.
  • In 2016 London, New York, Paris, Tokyo and Hong Kong were ranked as the most successful global cities, reflecting their global political importance as well as their role in the global financial system. These cities were the top 5 "Alpha Cities" for commerce. 
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Transnational Corporations (TNCs)

One of the main players and drivers in globalisation has been TNCs. TNCs or transnational corporations are companies that operate in more than one country. These major companies have a global 'reach'

  • They are the driving force behind the globalisation of industry, services and trade of the past 50 years.
  • TNCs are responsible for 4/5 of global economic output, the top 500 TNCs account for 90% of FDI and TNCs generate 2/3 of world trade
  • Much of China's rapid economic growth has been fuelled by western TNCs locating manufacturing plants in its SEZs, creating jobs and boosting exports, taking advantage of China's economic liberalisation since 1978. 
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TNCs Contribution to Globalisation

TNCs have contributed to globalisation by:

  • Outsourcing- They have outsourced some parts of their businesses, usually administration and data processing, to third-party companies: Bangalore in India has become known as a location for TNC call centres and data processing.
  • Offshoring- They have offshored some parts of their businesses to cheaper foreign locations, especially the SEZs in Asian countries
  • Developing new markets- many TNCs that initially set up factories in Asia now sell their products there.
  • Glocalisation- adapting brands and products to suit local market tastes, e.g. McDonald's.

But TNCs have been accused of exploiting workers in LEDCs by paying very low wages. Outsourcing jobs to LEDCs can lead to job losses in developed countries. Local cultures and traditions can be eroded by TNCs and Western Culture.

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Advantages and Disadvantages of TNCs

TNCs can be very useful for a country and can bring a lot of benefits to an area. Some of those advantages that a TNC can bring are:

  • They can provide inward investment and create jobs for local people
  • They boost exports and help the trade balance
  • They can help to develop and improve skill levels and expertise among the workforce, and technology and process systems among local firms
  • TNCs increase spending and create a multiplier effect within local economies
  • They also attract related investment by suppliers and create clusters of economic activity
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Advantages and Disadvantages of TNCs

However there are also downsides that a TNC can bring to an area. Some of those Disadvantages are:

  • Many jobs that TNCs offer are relatively low-skilled in labour-intensive industries and most TNCs dont control the conditions in the factories they outsource to so there can be low working standards for the employees. 
  • There is a lack of security, as TNCs switch operations to lower-cost locations elsewhere
  • Also there is a lack of control, with key investment decisions taken overseas at company headquarters
  • TNCs may demand further government financial incentives not to disinvest which can cause isues for the government
  • The competition of TNCS can lead to the closure of domestic firms
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Switched On and Off Places

'Switched On' places are those nations, regions or cities that are strongly connected to other places through the production and consumption of goods or services. 

Reasons why places are switched on:

  • Trade Agreements 
  • Adcance in Communication and Technology 
  • Tourism
  • Access to raw materials 

'Switched Off' places are those nations, regions or cities that are poorly connected and isolated from global networks because of debt, political instability or conflict.

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Switched On and Off Places

Some places remain 'switched off' from globalisation and have only weak connections to other places. They may be switched off because of:

  • Political isolation- North Korea has deliberately isolated itself from the rest of the world, shunning world trade and limiting the use of technologies such as mobile phones and the internet in pursuit of its own state ideology. There are no undersea data cables connecting North Korea to other parts of the world.
  • Economic isolation- Rural parts of Sub-Saharan Africa, especially the Sahel region, are dominated by a subsistence farming economy with food produced to eat not to sell. These places are also poor, and their capacity to create connections is limited.
  • Environmental barriers- Harsh desert climates, extreme polar cold and dense tropical forests all limit the development of transport and trade connections meaning continental interiors and polar regions are less well connected than coastal locations.
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Global Shift in Economic Activity

In the last 30 years global economic activity has shifted towards Asia. This is a result of the global shift of industry towards Asia which is only accelerated by globalisation. The increase of TNCs and FDI in newly industialising countries (NCIs) has enabled the global shift to happen rapidly. In particular:

  • The shift of manufacturing jobs from Europe, Japan and North America to China
  • The shift of service and administration jobs to India, especially the city of Bangalore

The global shift has has also increased rapidly because of two facilitating features:

  • Advances in Transport 
  • Advances in Technology
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Benefits of the Global Shift for Asia

The global shift in economic activity has had both a positive and negative effect for Asia.

Some benefits for Asia include:

  • Major investment in roads, ports, airports and power infrastructure; China built 11,000km of new motorways in 2015 alone
  • A shift from informal, insecure employment to waged employment with a set income and some security
  • TNCs invest in training and skills development to improve workforce productivity, and some skills are transferable
  • Major reductions in regional poverty due to employment; 600 million Chinese were lifted out of poverty between 1992 and 2015
  • As more people in formal employment pay taxes, local and national government invest in public services such as education and health
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Costs of the Global Shift for Asia

Costs of the global shift for Asia:

  • Urban sprawl and loss of productive farmland and forests such as industry and cities expand to accommodate industry and worker housing
  • New developments tend to be unplanned and sometimes poorly built, lacking key public services
  • Low wages, long working hours, lack of union representation and possible exploitation of workers
  • Rapid loss of tradition such as local foods and dress as the pace of urban and industrial change is so rapid
  • It is clear that China has paid a heavy environmental price as a result of the global shift, Severe air pollution in cities like Beijing, where air pollution is regularly well above WHO safe limits
  • The WWF reported in 2015 that almost half of China's land-based vertebrate species have been lost in the last 40 years as biodiversity has suffered as habitats have been destroyed
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Costs of the Global Shift for Developed Countries

For developed countries the shift has meant deindustrialisation (the closure of manufacturing industries such as steelwork).

  • This means lower pollution levels as it can be said that the global shift has exported pollution to Asia.

However, economic restructuring has caused a number of social and environmental problems in many former industrial cities in the developed world, such as Sheffield and Manchester:

  • Declining populations as a result of factory closures
  • High crime rates - in the UK post-industrial Middlesbrough has a high crime rate
  • Derelict land - disused factory sites and is often contaminated by industrial waste, making it costly to reuse
  • Unemployment is usually high in deindustrialised cities
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Global connections have gotten strogner since the increase of globalisation. The connections created by globalisation have caused an increase in global migration.

  • Migration is the movement of people from one place to another. The reasons for migration can be economic, social, political or environmental. There are usually push factors and pull factors at work.

Probably the most significant form of migration is rural-urban migration (people moving from the countryside to cities).

  • This feeds the growth of the world's megacities (a city with a population over 10 million).
  • In developing and emerging countries about 60% of urban growth is caused by rural-urban migration and 40% by high birth rates in cities (natural increase).
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Push Factors of Rural-Urban Migration

Push Factors: Factors that encourage people to leave the place in which they live to move elswhere. 

Some push factors of rural-urban migration are:

  • Goods and services available to rural places are limited
  • Less money is spent on educational resources in rural areas
  • Fewer doctors and medical facilities in rural areas
  • Limited new opportunities (jobs) in rural areas - unemployment
  • Limited amounts of government money is spent on rural areas - poor healthcare and education provision
  • Drought and famine or Natural disasters
  • Poverty
  • Crop failure
  • War and conflict
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Pull Factors of Rural-Urban Migration

Pull Factors: The factors which attract people to move to a new place.

Some pull factors of rural to urban migration are:

  • Potential for employment
  • Better service provisions and amenities
  • Greater wealth or affluence
  • Political security
  • Stable government and no corruption
  • Higher education
  • High technology
  • More comfortable, proper and quality housing
  • Better living conditions
  • Better medical care
  • Political and religious freedom
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While some megacities are growing slowly, developing world cities like Lagos and Karachi have very rapid growth.
Social challenges of megacity growth:

  • Housing is in short supply, leading to the growth of slums and shanty towns that lack water, sewers and power supplies increasing the spread of disease
  • High Poverty rate because wages are low and jobs are in short supply
  • Lack of taxes means city governments struggle to supply essential health and education services

Environmental challenges of megacity growth:

  • Sprawling slums at the city edge cause deforestation and loss of farmland and increase flood risk
  • Wood fires, old vehicles and industry mean air pollution levels are high
  • Rivers and lakes are polluted with sewage and industrial waste
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Elite Migration

HQs and offices of TNCs are often located in global hubs (a city, like London or New York, with a high density of transport, business, political and cultural connections to the rest of the world), so high-paid professional workers are attracted to these places and this creates huge wealth

  • These global elite migrants often employ maids, drivers, nannies and gardeners which attracts low skills migrants such as Indian and Bangladeshi migrants moving to the United Arab Emirates 
  • Further low skills, low wage migrants are used as construction workers for office and apartment blocks in global hubs

Some cities, like London and New York attract exceptionally wealthy migrants. E.g. Russian oligarch billionaires investing in property in London and living there some of the time.

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Cultural Diffusion

Globalisation has often been said to have spread a 'westernised' global culture which originates in North America and Europe. A culture based on:

  • Wealth creation and private enterprise
  • Fashion, technology and trends
  • An attitude that the physical environment should be exploited for its natural resources to create wealth

Western culture has spread by cultural diffusion (the exchange of ideas between different people as they mix and interact as a result of globalisation). Migration dramatically increases cultural diffusion. Other factors that also are important are:

  • Tourism brings people into contact with new cultures
  • TNCs spread their brands and products around the world
  • Global media organisations (e.g Disney/the BBC) spread a western view of world events
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Impacts of Cultural Diffusion

Western culture can be viewed as having both positive and negative impacts on the physical environment and people:

  • The spread of a western diet is changing diets around the world, especially in Asian cities, with the spread of McDonald's, KFC and other fast food. This has been linked to rising obesity and diabetes in many emerging countries.
  • This type of consumer culture is also very wasteful in terms of resources such as discarded fast food packaging and fashion items.This can be linked to deforestation and excessive water use in industry, as well as air and water pollution.

On the other hand western culture has tended to improve opportunities for some traditionally disadvantaged and discriminated against groups:

  • Global media coverage of the Paralympics, Gay Pride marches and high profile cases of sex discrimination may help erode discrimination and prejudice in developing and emerging countries.
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Impacts of the spread of Western Culture

The spread of western culture is strongly opposed by some groups, broadly called the anti-globalisation movement. Protest groups such as Occupy Wall Street and the Global Justice Movement argue that globalisation has:

  • Dramatically increased resource consumption through exploiting the natural environment, leading to problems like deforestation, water pollution, global warming and biodiversity loss
  • Exploited workers, especially in emerging countries, who suffer low wages, dangerous working conditions and lack any form of union representation
  • Passed political and economic power into the hands of TNCs and uncaring governments, at the expense of ordinary people
  • Created increased inequality, i.e. a small group of very rich, powerful people (the '1%'), at the expense of others
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Cultural Erosion

Cultural erosion is the idea that traditional lifestyles are degraded by the spread of western culture, and local dress, art and architectural styles are lost. It is argued that with the spread of a 'global culture' because of globalisation, the process of culture erosion is increasing.

  • Arctic Inuit, tribal groups in Papua New Guinea and Amazonia, and mountain people in Nepal and Bhutan now all experience tourism and exposure to global media.
  • Their traditional foods, music, language, clothes and social relations are all being eroded, or else being turned into a 'show' for tourists.
  • Also Western companies such as fast-food chain (McDonalds) are investing in countries all around the world and local businesses may start to close as they can't keep up with the TNCs
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The Development Gap

Globalisation had led to increased development in some countries, but has also widened the gap between rich and poor in some cases (the development gap).

The development gap can be:

  • Between countries 
  • Within countries

Measuring the gap between rich and poor is not easy. Geographers use single measures like life expectancy or GDP per capita because they give an easy to use and understand 'headline' measure of development. However, single measures are not very accurate.

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Measuring Development

Composite measures combine several data points into an index:

  • The most well known is the combination of life expectancy, income and years in education used to produce the Human Development Index (HDI). 
  • The Gender Inequality Index (GII) combines the reproductive health of women, their participation in the workforce and empowerment (women in higher education and politics) to measure gender aspects of development.

These indices focus on social development as well as economic development and are usually viewed as a better reflection of development progress:

  • Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) GDP per capita has become a popular way of comparing economic development between countries because unlike nominal GDP it takes into account the cost of living within countries.
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Winners and Losers of Gloabalisation

Globalisation's winners:

  • Owners of TNCs (who make up a large proportion of billionaires worldwide)
  • Developed countries have proved very good at maintaining their wealth
  • The rising middle class of factory and call centre workers in Asia, whose incomes have risen as they have gained outsourced jobs
  • People working in TNCs in developed countries who earn high incomes 

Globalisation's losers:

  • Isolated, rural populations in Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa where subsistence farming still dominates and global connections are thin
  • Workers in developed places who have lost industrial jobs 
  • Workers in sweatshop factories in emerging countries who suffer 
  • Slum dwellers in developing world megacities like Lagos
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Environmental Impact of Globalisation

The environmental impact of development and globalisation is often measured using ecological footprints (a measure of the resources used by a country or person over the course of a year, measured in global hectares), whereas one way of measuring economic development is using income per capita.

  • E.g. Sweden's income per person has grown hugely, but its ecological footprint has not. This suggests that economic development in Sweden has not affected the quality of the environment. 
  • E.g. China's ecological footprint has steadily risen. Since 2001, rising Chinese incomes correlate with very large increases in ecological footprint. This suggests that economic development in China has very high environmental costs.

In summary: some countries can take advantage of globalisation without damaging their environment, while others cannot.

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Globalisation has contributed to large immigrant populations and there are now large diasporas (the dispersal of a population overseas) from many countries resident in other countries. Several factors have increased the pace of migration:

  • Open borders to migration within the EU since 1995
  • FDI, encouraging TNC workers to move overseas
  • Deregulation of some job markets, allowing foreign qualified workers
  • Humanitarian crises, like the Syrian civil war and war with Islamic State, which have seen large numbers of reguees flee to Europe since 2011
  • Most EU countries, as well as many other developed countries, now have culturally mixed populations. 
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Impacts of Migration

At a certain rate of immigration housing, jobs, education and other services will come under strain and this risks a rise in tensions with some of the host country population who may view the migration as 'too many, too fast'.

There is evidence in Europe that migration has increased social and political tensions and even led to a rise in extremism:

  • The UK 'Brexit' vote in 2016 to leave the EU had the scale and pace of immigration as a key area of debate
  • In 2014, 51% of Swiss voted in favour of stopping mass immigration in a national referendum
  • Anti-immigration political parties have been rising in popularity since 2010, e.g. UKIP in the UK, the Front National in France, the Dutch Party for Freedom, and Freedom Party of Austria
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Government Policies to reduce the impact of Global

Some countries have attempted to limit the impact of globalisation using government policy:

  • The internet is banned in North Korea, because the Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un does not want his people to have access to 'western' ideas.
  • In China, the internet was very widely used by 52% of the population in 2016, but it is censored; some searches for politically sensitive topics get no results because the Chinese Communist Party seeks to prevent them
  • Since 2010 the UK has sought to reduce immigration using a points system, but with only limited results because EU immigration cannot be controlled.
  • Countries like Australia also use points-based immigration systems to match immigrants to actual economic needs and job vacancies.
  • Trade protectionism is still common: oil exports are banned in the USA, India restricts foreign companies investing in its retail sector to protect its local shopkeepers from competition
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Issues with Globalisation

Globalisation is associated with a range of rising environmental issues. These include growing food, water, energy and climate insecurities. It has led to a number of ethical and environmental concerns:

  • Fears that consumer goods have been made using exploited labour
  • Concerns that imported food products like tea, coffee, bananas and cocoa do not provide their farmers with a decent income due to low prices
  • Concerns that consumer goods use excessive resources during their production, packaging, transport and use
  • Worries that our consumer culture is contributing to global warming as ecological footprints rise

There are several different responses to the social and environmental ethical issues raised by globalisation and globalised consumer products.

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Environmental/Ethical Impact of Globalisation

Globalisation is associated with a range of rising environmental issues. These include growing food, water, energy and climate insecurities. It has led to a number of ethical and environmental concerns:

  • Fears that consumer goods have been made using exploited labour
  • Concerns that imported food products like tea, coffee, bananas and cocoa do not provide their farmers with a decent income due to low prices
  • Concerns that consumer goods use excessive resources during their production, packaging, transport and use
  • Worries that our consumer culture is contributing to global warming as ecological footprints rise
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Environmental Insecurities

  • Food: With the population ever increasing it is estimated that by 2050 the demand for food worldwide will double. Diets are also changing with middle-class diets and imported food products like bananas all add to issues such as global warming which increases household’s ecological footprints.
  • Climate: The global diffusion and adoption of manufactured goods, from energy-hungry televisions and fridges to throw away plastic pens and bottles, has increased the average carbon footprint size of the Earth’s population.
  • Water: The production of food can also cause a depleted water supply. The breeding of farm animals and crop production can be water insensitive activities. Additionally as societies develop economically and become more urban, the average household water consumption increases. 
  • Engergy: Unless significant nuclear energy is achieved, the increase use of fossil fuels is unavoidable. The extraction of fossil fuels damages local landscapes and threatens the transition to a clean energy economy. 
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Localism and Local Sourcing

Localism: the idea that food and goods should be grown locally, supporting local jobs and reducing transport, rather than being sourced globally (i.e. buying local products, trying to trade with other local businesses and building local community movements around sustainability issues) 

e.g. buying local products, trying to trade with other local businesses and building local community movements around sustainability issues

Local Sourcing: Adopting ethical consumption strategies by buying locally sourced food and commodities

The benefits of local sourcing is that it is very beneficial for local suppliers, it reduces the carbon footprint, there are shorter delivery times and fewer pesticides. However the drawbacks of local sourcing is that it is expensive to source meat locally and that tomatoes that are locally sourced have larger carbon footprints than those that get imported.

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Transition Town

A transition town is a settlement where individuals and businesses have adopted ‘bottom-up’ initiatives with the aim of making their community more sustainable and less reliant on global trade.

  • The NGO 'Transition Network' encourages towns to grow their own food in community gardens rather than import it and reduce energy used in transport, e.g. cycling and recycle waste/reuse materials. 
  • Some towns like Totnes, Exeter and Stroud even have their own local currencies to encourage local trade. These initiatives are small scale, but some elements like 'grow your own' could have a big impact if widely adopted and promoting local sourcing became more widespread. 


  • An example of a transition town is Todmorden in West Yorkshire
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Case Study: Transition Town of Todmorden

Todmorden is a town in West Yorkshire in the South Pennines is a transition town. Most of the food that is sold there is locally grown. 

The Government actions in Todmorden:

  • The 'Incredible Edible Todmorden' campaign, which receives National Lottery funding, aims to encourage consumers and growers to work together, creating 40 public fruit and vegetable gardens and stages regular educational talks and events in the town.
  • The educational talks to younger generations aim to make the future better. However there is downsides to these schemes as tomatoes in greenhouses have larger carbon footprints than if you were to import them
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Fair Trade

Fair Trade: Fair trade means that the producer gets a guaranteed, fair minimum price for his produce. Fair trade also sets minimum standards for the pay and condition of workers

  • Fair Trade pays farmers in developing countries a guaranteed price for their produce plus a 'fair trade premium' payment. This attempts to reduce the inequalities of global trade.
  • The aim is to make incomes sustainable for farming families, and use some of the additional money to support community facilities like wells, schools and clinics.
  • The downsides to fair trade are that the extra income is small, and fair trade products are more expensive for consumers.
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Case Study: Unfair Trade

One example of unfair trade can be seen in the Chocolate industry.

The highly competitive cocoa and chocolate market and the fundamental power inequalities between small-scale farmers and TNC’s are one reason for the unfair trade.

While the profits for TNC’s have increased rapidly since the 1980s, the price of cocoa beans has halved. Cocoa farmers are poorly organised and lack insight into the development of world market prices for cocoa.

Millions of small-scale farmers stand opposite big traders and chocolate companies – an often unfair game. They lack the structure and organisation of big interest groups which would give them a bigger say in politics and international trade. Furthermore, depending on local trading structures, taxes and quality of the beans, cocoa farmers receive only part of the current market price. 

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The Accord on Fire and Building safety

The Accord on Fire and Building safety: The Accord on fire and building safety In Bangladesh is a significant recent development that shows Western retailers beginning to take more responsibility for working conditions in their supply chains. 

  • It was introduced following the collapse of the Rana Plaza building in Dhaka, Bangladesh, in 2013. The collapse led to the deaths of 1100 retail workers. On the day of the collapse workers were sent back into the building to complete international orders in time for delivery even though a major crack had appeared overnight in the building. Walmart, Matalan and other major TNCs regularly outsourced clothing orders to the Rana Plaza. 

Since the collapse many British TNCs have signed the Accord which is a legally binding agreement on worker safety. The company's now promise to ensure safety checks are carried out regularly in all Bangladeshi factories that supply them with clothes.

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UK Government Actions to respond to the sustainabi

  • The Local councils in the UK play a key role in reducing waste through recycling and councils' waste collection services. And authorities in the UK have run their own recycling schemes under local agenda 21 (established at the 1992 United Nations conference on Environment and Development). The recycling of household waste increased from 17% to 44% between 2003 and 2013. Recycling does help to reduce waste, but different councils have different schemes with different results and some believe that reducing packaging might be a better way forward.
  • In 2011 the Welsh assembly banned shops in Wales from giving away free plastic bags. Instead a 5 pence fee was introduced on all bags provided by retailers. The charge was considered to be large enough to influence the behaviour of the shoppers, without harming business for the retailers. Consumers avoid paying for the bags by simply reusing those they already had. In 2013 Northern Ireland introduced a similar ban and charging scheme followed by Scotland in 2014 and England in 2015.
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