The Effects of Globalization in the Workplace

by Clayton Browne

Globalization is the development of an integrated global economy including greater free trade, free international capital flows, and the availability of inexpensive labor markets in less developed areas. Human societies have gradually integrated over the centuries, but the pace of integration increased dramatically in the late 20th century. Fast aircraft, huge ships, and information technology, especially the Internet, have made the world more interdependent than ever. Companies manufacture products in low-labor-cost countries and sell these products across the globe. In the 21st century, money, technology and raw materials can move across national borders quickly and easily. Globalization has also led to ideas circulating more freely, which has resulted in the creation of international laws and new social movements.

Job Dislocations

It is important to keep in mind that globalization creates job dislocations, not job losses. In fact, almost all economists agree that globalization and the wealth of new markets and consumers has led to the creation of many millions of new jobs worldwide. However, globalization does mean many jobs are outsourced from one country to another because of lower labor costs; which means a lot of people who used to work in those jobs are out of work and must find new jobs. Technically speaking, however, the jobs still exist, they are simply located in a country with lower labor costs.

Job Retraining and Greater Education

Re-employment has become a buzz phrase in the U.S. and other first-world countries suffering from outsourcing-related job dislocations. Re-employment means establishing programs to help dislocated workers get the training and education they need for the more skilled jobs the global economy is creating in their countries. Re-employment programs will become increasingly important as the pace of globalization quickens in the next few decades.

Increased Job Specialization

Another 21st century workplace trend clearly related to greater globalization is increased job specialization. Technology, improved productivity and increased job specialization are inextricably linked. Employers need employees who understand how to use the new productivity-enhancing tools provided by modern technology. Most employers are not looking for a general crime lab tech any more, for example; they are looking for an American Board of Criminalistics molecular biology-certified diplomate with with at least two years of DNA PCR-based STR analysis experience.

Cultural Diversity

Another consequence of globalization is increased cultural diversity in many workplaces, especially in information technology-related workplaces. The low cost and relative ease of travel has been a significant factor in international business travel becoming the norm over the last few decades. Many hundreds of thousands of people from less-developed countries have traveled to the U.S., Europe and other developed countries to get an education and to work over this same time period. A significant percentage of these people ended up becoming permanent immigrants, and often brought many of their cultural traditions with them.

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