Thursday, February 05, 2004

WHAT I'M READING TODAY: WHO'S GETTING RICHER?

The ILO released its Global Employment Trends 2004 report two weeks ago (I'm a little slow).

Despite global economic growth of 3.2 percent and a 3.0 percent increase in trade for 2003, the number of unemployed people in the world increased. The ILO estimates that there were 185.9 million people in the world out of work who actively sought employment, versus 185.4 million during 2002. Fully 550 million working people in the world live on less than $1 million per day, a flawed though widely used benchmark of subsistence poverty. (Note: this 550 million figure is not the number of "poor" people in the world).

What is to blame? Two things: first, the SARS outbreak in East Asia and Canada during the first half of 2003 greatly slowed the pace of global tourism; second, increasing economic interdependce and polarization of incomes means that we are globalizing economic cycles. The export-led growth model entrenched by twenty-so years of neo-liberal structural adjustment means that when demand dries up in the United States (as during the past recession and jobless recovery), other countries' wells also run dry. Between the start of the U.S. recession in January 2001 and year end 2003, the world unemployment shot up by 11.9 million people. Mexico's maquiladora export industry--supposed to be the engine of economic growth for our southern neighbor--alone has shed more than 2.2 million jobs to date.

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