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Now a days, there is a growing trend towards economic globalization. Globalization has
promoted economic growth while at the same time, it has caused social problems such as the
unequal distribution of income. The vast numbers of developing countries as a whole have
remained at a disadvantageous position. As gap between the North and the South widens and
disparity between the rich and the poor grows, developing countries have found it more
difficult to achieve sustainable development.

Globalization has not only produced political and economic implications for various
countries but also brought far-reaching influences on the world trade union movement. All
this has captured the wide attention of trade union organizations at national, regional and
international levels. To this end, I’d like to make some initial comments on globalization
from the following two perspectives.

I. Major impacts of globalization on the international union movement

(i) In the process of globalization, neo-liberal economic policies taken by many countries
have weakened the foundation of trade unions.
Globalization has intensified economic competition among nations. To increase the
competitiveness of their products in the global market, many countries have adopted the so-
called neo-liberal policy, with one of its key parts being legal restrictions on workers’ rights
for the sake of higher economic efficiency. As a consequence, trade unions in many countries
have lost their rights that they had won through many years of struggle, and their political
foundation has increasingly eroded away.
At the same time, neo-liberal policies strongly advocate labour market flexibility, namely,
de-regulating labour market and empowering employers in areas of hiring, firing, wage, and
use of labour. As a result, informal employment and cheap forms of labour, such as part-time,
casual and domestic workers, have become prevalent over the past few years. Those informal
workers have not enjoyed adequate protection for their employment, wages, social security
and occupational health and safety. Changes in employment patterns have in turn rendered it
very difficult for trade unions to organize workers.
The rapid technological revolution, coupled with economic globalization, has accelerated the
pace of structural adjustment. With the further division of international labour, some
developed countries have shifted their labour-intensive enterprises to other countries. Trade
unions in those developed countries have lost some of their traditional industrial bases. In the
meantime, the fast application of new and high technologies in traditional industries such as
steel, manufacturing and construction has caused a drop in labour demand on a yearly basis.
Furthermore, the traditional ways of trade union work have been challenged in IT and other
hi-tech industries. Against such backdrop, union density has declined in many countries.

(ii) Globalization has expedited the internationalization of trade union work.

Trade unions are a product of socioeconomic conflicts and industrial disputes in the
industrialized society. Trade unions gain their legitimacy through national legislation and
other means, and protect their members’ rights within their jurisdiction. Due to economic
globalization, capital has become global rapidly, which challenges the traditional means of
worker protection by trade unions and internationalizes industrial disputes. In particular,
disputes between workers and their trade unions and multinational companies have taken
place from time to time. In terms of labour-capital conflict, workers of all countries have the
same interests. However, in the context of the irrational international political and economic
order, increasingly prevalent protectionism in many developed countries has made it a
pressing task for the workers and trade unions in developing countries to better protect their
own interests and safeguard their national economic security.

(iii) Globalization has increased the disparity between the haves and the have nots.

The developed capitalist countries have initially pushed economic globalization, in which
process they have always played a leading role. Although globalization has contributed to the
overall development of the world economy to some degree, developed countries have turned
out to be its biggest beneficiaries, on the grounds that the old international political and
economic order remains basically unchanged and that they hold a strong position in capital,
technology, skills, management, trade, investment and finance. They harness their strength to
scramble for markets in the whole world and spare no efforts to maximize their interests. For
developing countries, globalization is a double-edged sword, which brings both opportunities
and challenges. Due to their relative backwardness in economic development and
technological level, the vast numbers of developing countries are on the whole at a
disadvantageous position and thus meet with severe challenges. Globalization has intensified
conflicts between the North and the South and resulted in the rich getting richer and the poor
poorer. In the meantime, developed countries have also experienced greater wealth
disparities, with their working people at the middle and lower strata of the society benefiting
little from globalization.

II. Opportunities and challenges brought by globalization to the Chinese trade unions

With the in-depth development of reform and opening-up in Nations , especially since its
entry into the WTO, opportunities and challenges brought by globalization have shown up
gradually. Over the past 20 or more years, we have attached great importance to formulating
and improving laws and regulations and protecting the legitimate rights and interests of
workers while accelerating reform and opening up. As we sped up economic development,
we have paid more attention to coordinated economic and social development and the
constant improvement of the living standards of people. In this process, the Chinese trade
unions have strongly supported the policy of reform and opening-up and worked hard to
better protect the legitimate rights and interests of workers. Recently, our Party and
government have put forward the scientific development concept, which emphasizes a
people-centered, all-around and sustainable path of development. In general, Nations has
witnessed a sustainable, speedy and sound economic development, a social stability and unity
and a continuous improvement of the living standards of the people.

However, we are fully aware of the fact that, as a developing country, Nations is generally at
a low level of economic and social development. Our international competitiveness is still
poor. Especially since its accession to the WTO, our country has accelerated the pace of
industrial restructuring, which has in turn exerted tremendous economic pressure on some
enterprises, particularly those state-owned enterprises undergoing structural transformation.
Today, we are faced with the following challenges:

(i) With the deepening of reform and opening-up, Nations has continued to face enormous
employment pressures. The Nations trade unions have heavy tasks in promoting employment
and protecting workers.
Nations has a large population and faces a big challenge of employment. Since Nations
entered into the WTO, some enterprises and industries have further intensified their structural
adjustment. Redundancies have added to structural unemployment. In particular, some
traditional industries and some old industrial bases have plunged into a difficult situation due
to market competition and thus have little potential for employment generation. In 2003, the
urban registered unemployment was eight million, or 4.3%. It is estimated that this year total
unemployment will reach around 14 million, with newly added labor in urban areas rising to
10 million. It is not hard to see that employment and reemployment pressure facing the
country is still great. At the same time, with the opening-up of the Nations agricultural
market to the outside world, agriculture has also undergone large-scale structural adjustment.
A large number of rural migrants have flocked into urban areas, which has further
exacerbated our employment problem.

In recent years, great changes have taken place in the structure of the working force. There is
a great gap between the knowledge and skill level of workers, including those farmer-turned-
workers, and the need of modern production. Therefore, we are under heavy pressure in terms
of training provision.

As the tertiary industry expands rapidly, the number of workers in informal sectors has risen
steadily. It is becoming more imperative to protect the legitimate rights and interests of
workers in those sectors.

Because of the heavy tasks of employment and reemployment as well as the change of
employment forms, we are faced with the more arduous tasks of protecting and securing
workers’ right to work and assisting the government in accelerating the establishment of a
social safety net.

(ii) Foreign-funded enterprises pose new challenges to the Nations trade unions.

An increasing number of foreign-invested enterprises have not only generated a new source
of economic growth, but also produced new effects on industrial relations in Nations .
According to the State Statistics Bureau of Nations , by the end of 2003, 8.197 million
workers had been employed in overseas-invested enterprises. Thus, it is one of our top
priorities to organize those workers into our unions and protect their legitimate rights and

Foreign-funded enterprises differ greatly from those domestic ones in terms of employment
pattern, management style and distribution mode. However, it is the latter rather than the
former that the Nations trade unions are familiar with. To improve their popularity and
competitiveness on the international market, some multinational companies are now
launching campaigns for the so-called corporate social responsibility, including codes of
conduct like SA8000. They are trying to incorporate international social and labour standards
into their internationalized production and operation system. Right now, we are studying
these new developments.

(iii) With the expansion of Nations ’s economy, Nations enterprises are gradually entering
into the international market, and labour relations in the Nations-funded enterprises overseas
are one of new concerns of the Nations trade unions.


Thus, taking into account all above mentioned, it is possible to conclude that the development
of globalization produces a profound influence on the development of the union movement.
In fact, the process of globalization produces a multiple impact on practically all spheres of
life and the union membership decline may be viewed as one of outcomes which is
determined by the general socioeconomic effect of
globalization. What is meant here is the fact that the role of large, multinational corporations
increases consistently that leads to the increase of opportunities for employees to implement
their policy concerning employees and conditions of work regardless interests of employees
or position of unions.

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