Millions of people in developing countries and millions more in Europe will lose their jobs under free trade plans to be promoted by British prime minister Gordon Brown at the G20 summit of the world’s leading economies, say campaigners.
The warning comes today from the charity War on Want in the first-ever report to calculate the numbers of jobs lost globally in the wake of trade liberalisation and to analyse the impact of free trade on employment.
It comes at a time when global unemployment is already rising fast, with the International Labour Organisation forecasting that over 50 million more people worldwide could lose their jobs by the end of this year, and 200 million workers could fall into extreme poverty.
The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development says that by next year, jobless numbers in rich nations could rise to 42 million, an increase of eight million. British unemployment has risen above two million for the first time since 1997.
The Prime Minister's call to the other G20 leaders to complete the Doha trade round puts 7.5 million workers at risk in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Indonesia, Mexico, Philippines, Tunisia and Uruguay and millions more in other rich and poor countries, according to War on Want.
The new report – Trading Away Our Jobs – is launched days before a national demonstration in the run-up to the G20 talks in London on 2 April.
War on Want's Executive Director John Hilary said: “Our report exposes how trade liberalisation has thrown millions of people into grim poverty and threatens to devastate many further lives. Gordon Brown’s free market fundamentalism will condemn millions to a bleak and jobless future. Instead of repeating the failed policies of the past, the Prime Minister and the other G20 leaders must put people first.”
Following two decades of free market policies, 50 million more Africans are now trapped in poverty than in 1997, the report suggests.
Three in four workers in sub-Saharan Africa now face insecure employment as a result of neo-liberal economics, with only a quarter in waged or salaried posts, according to the study. Four in five Zambian workers struggle to survive as street traders. Ninety-five per cent of them earn only two dollars a day and over three quarters earn less than a dollar a day.
Zambian tailor Matthews Nkoma says of big foreign exporters: “Instead of bringing raw materials, they bring finished goods at a cheaper price. We cannot compete and have really lost out.”
Malawi’s real wages in manufacturing plunged by 73 per cent between 1990 and 1995. Trade liberalisation in the 1980s and 1990s also brought huge job losses in Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Kenya, Morocco and Zimbabwe.
During the free trade 1990s, the number of jobless in Latin America soared from 7.6 million to 18.1 million, with unemployment rises in Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela. Between the early 1990s and 2006, farming jobs in Mexico slumped from 8.1 million to around six million as a result of trade liberalisation. Now a third of all the region’s workers face insecure employment.