What is the relationship between well-being and equality? In the article ‘Is Globalization Reducing Poverty and Inequality?’ Robert Wade outlines the effects of globalization on poverty levels and income distribution over the past few decades, surveying various figures of comparison such as PPP-adjusted incomes and market exchange rates. Although he concludes that the proportion of the global population living in poverty has decreased and income equality has risen as a result of globalization, he emphasizes that these are merely generalized images. Specifically, he states that an increase of income equality appears most severe “when incomes are measured at market-exchange-rate incomes” (193). However, he admits that this trend is much less relevant when measured against well-being. In this vain, the two terms mentioned above stand farther apart than expected; while one’s economic equality may be on the rise, his or her well-being may actually be plummeting.
A perfect example comes straight out of our beloved Foxconn. According to Fallows, Foxconn provides assembly line jobs for close to 240,000, clearly bolstering the local and state-wide economy and stabilizing incomes for workers. However, the aesthetically pleasing income figures did not reveal the entire picture. Foxconn was accused of unsatisfactory conditions found within their factory, placing workers at risk for injury. In response, Foxconn increased workers salaries by 25% in some cases.
Although salaries were raised, how do we measure the well-being of Foxconn employees? As seen in both situations, we must be wary in equating income with quality of life. I believe it is dangerous and difficult to generalize the economic impact of globalization considering it affects each country and population differently.