Home Globalization- 4. Shock absorbers for the global economy

Effects of globalization

Shock absorbers for the global economy

Globalization is shaking many more people loose, and encouraging them to undertake dangerous journeys for exploitative work.

Globalization and economic development in general will provoke additional emigration as people become more mobile. This is similar to the aftermath of the industrial revolution in 19th-century Europe. Here the flows eventually subsided as incomes rose at home.

The same thing could happen in future in migrant-sending countries as they become richer. But one crucial difference is that the economic environment is more unstable. Huge flows of speculative capital make it difficult to promote sustained economic development. And when the investors flee so do the emigrants. The shocks delivered by globalization thus shake more people loose from their familiar surroundings and open up the prospect of emigration. Should globalization not be tamed the picture could turn much darker.

Just as the supply of migrants is likely to increase, so too is the demand. As a result the rich countries are tempting millions of people to travel and work illegally. International migrants have thus become the shock absorbers of the global economy, forced to embark on perilous voyages and to work illegally – and thus are exposed to all forms of abuse and exploitation.

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Rescued boat travellers in Spain

A group of rescued boat people on board a coastguard vessel in the port of Los Cristianos on Tenerife, Spain.
Photo: UNHCR / A. Rodríguez