Globalization, Labor Market Risks, and Class Cleavages
In: Beramendi, Pablo, Silja Häusermann, Hebert Kitschelt and Hanspeter Kriesi (eds). The Politics of Advanced Capitalism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press: 133-56
38 Pages Posted: 22 Oct 2015
Date Written: 2015
This chapter focuses on the impact of globalization on voter preferences. To do so, we consider the labor market consequences of trade, foreign direct investment, and immigration, which have had immediate effects on voters in advanced capitalist democracies. The globalization of production and the international flow of labor generate gains and losses in ways that cut both along and across traditional class cleavages, especially when such globalization has uneven sectoral effects. To identify who benefits and who loses from globalization, scholars have investigated effects on the basis of skills, industries, and occupation. More recent research has developed increasingly complex models that take into account differences in the productivity of firms, in the skill and cultural profiles of domestic and migrant labor, and in economic conditions across and within countries. The first part of this chapter provides an overview of this literature. In the second part we re-examine the role of class. Though the scholarship we review paints an increasingly complex picture of globalization’s distributional consequences and its ensuing effects on preferences, we contend that class still remains significant in ordering preferences: Low-skill workers have often been identified as the group most likely to voice its discontent about economic liberalization and cultural opening. This finding is in line with skill-based economic models that predict that low-skill workers in high-skill economies should suffer most from globalization. As we will illustrate, however, it can also be consistent with accounts that focus on the sectoral and occupational threats posed by the global flow of goods and labor. By examining exposure to trade, FDI, and immigration together, we show that low-skill workers in advanced industrialized democracies cannot easily escape the labor market pressures that globalization generates. Those low-skill workers who are relatively sheltered from the threats associated with outsourcing and trade are most vulnerable to competition arising from immigration, and vice versa. Further, the labor market pressures experienced by low-skilled workers occur alongside and are inseparable from exposure to cultural diversity. More than their high-skill counterparts, low-skilled workers experience economic and cultural threats jointly.
Keywords: globalization, offshoring, immigration
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