Thursday, August 11, 2016

Towards a Post-Globalization World

Britain, Brexit, and a New Economic Direction

In a recent New York Times article, a reporter visited Wigan in the north of England to try to understand why Britain voted to leave the European Union. He spoke to a 61-year-old pro-Brexit voter, a worker at a canned food factory named Colin whose weekly income had fallen by 52% in the last three years, from $665 (£443) to $318 (£212). For Colin, that was painful. Still worse, he told the newspaper, was that the factory had moved from standard full-time contracts to “zero hour” contracts where the company decides each day how many hours Colin is needed. “It is basically slave labor,” Colin told the Times. This decline in wages and labor relations for semi-skilled and unskilled workers is partly due to increased competition from eastern European workers. The reporter interviewed a Pakistani and a Polish immigrant in Wigan, each of whom expressed strong views in favor of restricting immigration to benefit current residents’ access to jobs and social services. Another interesting report, a video in the Guardian made the same case, interviewing voters in seven different cities who attributed economic and social service problems to immigrants from eastern Europe. Another powerful story in the (London) Times visited the former coalmining village of Grimethorpe in Yorkshire to find voters angry about the local warehouse firm recruiting unskilled labor in Poland to work in Grimethorpe while turning down local residents who applied for jobs. One woman said that on polling day, she went around the village urging at least 50 friends and family to remember to vote and vote “Out”.  These are not “irrational” voters as London commentators, who lately like to call themselves the “cosmopolitan elite” suggest. Voters are acutely rational and aware when it comes to effects on their own livelihoods.