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Globalization: The Promises and The Perils, U.S. and Asian Responses

Informatics Creative Commons photo-patchwork. (musha68000/Flickr)

Informatics Creative Commons photo-patchwork. (musha68000/Flickr)

Ms. Won: Your question is why the Thai government policy changed on the migrant workers. When Thailand faced the economic crisis, lots of people, Thai workers, lost their jobs and the government just want to play that because of the migrant workers who are taking jobs of the Thai. That's why they can't get the job. That's why they would like to deport back the migrant workers to Burma. They would like to use migrant workers as scapegoats to the nation, let's say. They think that if these migrant workers go back to Burma, Thai workers will get the jobs. But actually, this is not a point. These migrant workers are working in the sector which Thai workers don't want to do because of the situation - the condition - is so dirty, difficult and dangerous and they work in well below the minimum wages.

For the illegal migrant workers, they could only earn about one dollar a day. But for Thai workers, they got five or six dollars a day.

Mr. Klatsky: Have they changed their policy? Are they still importing people back to Burma?

Ms. Won: Deportation crackdown happened last November, deportation crackdown was at the national level a violation. But the community didn't pay attention. We didn't get attention.

Dr. Khosla: The African Trade Bill. We opposed the Africa Trade Bill for the same reasons that we opposed China's permanent most favorite nation trade bill. Let me clearly say what it is. We don't resent investments getting attracted to countries which want to open up their markets, especially on the basis of lower wages. What we want as part of the Africa Trade Bill was to make sure that it had provisions about labor rights; it had provisions about reduction of the debt of these countries, which crippled a lot of these economies, and it had environmental protections. If those protections are kept in place in the Africa Trade Bill, we'll be glad to support it.

6. Question: I'm co-chair of the UN NGO Committee on Sustainable Development. We've been talking about these issues all year. We're now getting into the question that I was interested in. We discuss a lot in our committee the issue of the sweat shops in Asia and no one has mentioned this as an issues of globalization, but one of the side effects that we also talk about and Dr. Sadik might be able to answer this correctly, is that if we do these boycotts as a lot of the university students are doing and effect the way the sweat shops have been running, what does that do to the people who are working in the sweat shops? A lot of people say young women go out and go into prostitution for an example. What's the story on that?

Dr. Sadik: I think that what you're saying is correct. We had in the child labor rights issue tabled for very good reason. In some countries - I think in Bangladesh, even in Pakistan and India - the children were out on the street. I in fact decided that this was not the way to deal with child labor. What was agreed is that if they worked, they had to have certain conditions and criteria. One was that they had to have access to education and the environment had to be healthy and the kind of work that they did would not be a health hazard and the time worked - I'm not absolutely familiar with it. But the reason that this was instituted and I think now there are some positive examples of how this is being handled in Bangladesh and I think even in Pakistan where there was a labor team that went there - was because when the children were out on the street or when the young women were out of jobs, they really were in a much worse situation than they were in the sweat shops. It's really not an easy issue to address. You can't just say, "Do away with it." You have to provide some alternative for the people who are working in these places. I think that's the whole key to all the discussion that we are having. How do we provide equality of opportunity to have everybody have a sustainable level of liberty - a sustainable livelihood in conditions in which we all accept or agree are the conditions in which they work? But I think just passing a law is not the end. You can have the law, but you have to have actions that make the law implementable. I think the second part is not always done.