Republic involved in destructive race to the bottom?

Interesting line from Harvard-based Dr Jody Heymann, who argues that globalisation comes with a price to families and settled societal structures. Essentially she believes the need for companies to become more competitive in a global market place, is drawing adults away from families with potentially disasterous future results:

“In every region of the world the number of households in which all adults are working is dramatically rising. Worldwide there are one billion children living in homes where all the adults are working,” said Dr Heymann. “In a third of the families interviewed children aged between nought and five-years-old had to be left home alone. Two thirds of the children left home alone faced accidents or emergencies. A third faced developmental or behavioural problems. This all connects back to Ireland. Many of those facing the worst working conditions are part of a chain. It’s a race to the bottom with either companies or countries feeling the only way to compete is through worse working conditions.”


  • aquifer

    Childrens’ development pattern tends to be set by age three or four, so this is no small matter.

    But what government will give the corporations an ASBO?

  • Crataegus

    Serious problem all markets need regulation but how do you effectively regulate a global market with such divided political entities?

    Another problem is the 24-7 culture and how it can lessens the opportunities for families to be together.

  • páid

    A massive issue, very interesting.

  • Yawn. Just some sociologist stating the obvious by doing an over funded survey with, most likely, a dodgy methodology. Social engineering has been going on a long time. Look how Japan’s birth rate plummeted after the war to where it is now, and almost one in three Japaense women opting never to marry. Ireland is going the same way: the old get richer, immigrants swarm in and young couples are priced out of the market. As regards the neglected children, well the devil and the market place both make work for idle hands.

  • Henry94

    The idea that Ireland is in a race to the bottom in terms of either pay or working conditions is simply wrong.

    In fact there is nothing to support that contention in any of the links.

    Not for the first time one wonders if Slugger gets so excited at something critical of Ireland that rational judgement on the merits of the case is suspended. Or not even understood.

  • Mick Fealty


    the line comes from the Examiner, not Slugger.

    Her contention is hugely controversial in a country that is investing major amounts of money and political capital in the reform of the health service and the renewal of the transport infrastructure. Money that it simply didn’t have before its entry into globalised markets.

    Nevertheless, it is likely that the traditional structures of Irish social capital are under strain in the way that Heymann describes. That is not necessarily something that is undesireable or avoidable. But surely it is worth noting?

  • Dualta

    [i]A third faced developmental or behavioural problems.[/i]

    Things are on the up then, eh?

  • Henry94


    I know Slugger doesn’t come up with its own lines so don’t dodge the point. It has been obvious for a long time that articles critical of Ireland get picked without any consideration for their merits.

    There is no argument here to contend with because no argument is made. Assertions are made but they are not supported. So there is nothing to debate. I think on most subjects that would be obvious to you.

    This all connects back to Ireland. Many of those facing the worst working conditions are part of a chain. It’s a race to the bottom with either companies or countries feeling the only way to compete is through worse working conditions.

    That this is nonsense is obvious.

    Why you take it seriously is also obvious.

  • Mick Fealty


    “…articles critical of Ireland get picked without any consideration for their merits”.

    I think you are being a tad oversensitive Henry. In this case all we have is a snippet of an argument the main thrust of which is to do with down side effects of globalisation, and only afterwards, presumably for the purposes of a given event, located in Ireland.

    I pushed it out because I thought it was interesting, and I suspected people might fall away and towards it. I could have pursued her original analysis from which she makes her assertion, but this is blogging Henry, not social science. I don’t always have the time or inclination to follow up everything to its final conclusion.

    As for the alleged bias towards negative stories on Ireland, I really don’t know how to answer that. You might be right, I don’t count the stories up into good and bad. One glance at the latest comments column will tell you that it is not simply Ireland.

    BTW, My mention of the Examiner was not dodging the point, simply pointing out that by and large we don’t make the news, we follow it. In the case of Northern Ireland we are mostly in the hands of politicians who cannot agree a level playing field on which to fight their battles. Keeping Slugger upright in that vacuum has been a largely thankless task in the meantime.

    The Republic is an exciting place to be, without a doubt. The opportunities and challenges that face it are enervating, not deadening. Indeed there are times when I feel like just lifting Slugger up out of its notional Belfast centric position and lump it down the road to Dublin, where real politicians make real political decisions.

    But if you think it is wrong for us to pick up negative stories on the Republic (to which you might add Northern Ireland, England and Scotland – see latest comment column), then I think you misunderstand the nature of blogging, and the active citizenship it entails.

    PS, It does concern me that one of our long term commenters apparently feels such disaffection from ‘the project’. But I also feel it is important that Slugger maintains the freedom to make its own choices and be praised or damned for making them.

  • aquifer

    A stage in making something better is to understand what is wrong with it. This was done before Ireland put in place the economic and market reforms that led to its boom.

    In a democracy debate is how things are decided on, and criticism is a vital part of this.

    Criticism is however anathma to dictatorships, whether religious, cultural, ethnic, or military.

    So lets have more of it.

  • J McConnell


    To be honest I thought the article should have be titled – another member of the Peoples Republic of Cambridge trots out half backed arguments for socialized child-care. Twenty years ago their rhetoric blamed Reganomics and monetarism for all the ills of modern society, now they blame ‘globalism’…

    Regarding ‘negative’ stories about Ireland. Despite all the stories about the new positive confident modern Ireland one of things that has not changed is just how thin skinned the Irish are. You are allowed to join in the general moaning, the Irish enjoy a good moan, but if you dare make any criticism of Ireland based on pointing out any of the glaring evidence for just how deeply dysfunctional modern Ireland is, and just how much of it is self-inflicted, then you will trigger a outbrake of self-righteous outrage. The Irish are too comfortable with their mythology of vistimhood to face up to the evidence that almost all of their real problems are self-created, and therefor almost all of their problems are self-solvable. So they sit around and moan and wait for some external deus ex machine to somehow solve their problems – and nothing changes.

    Lots of evidence for this on this blog and that is why blogs like this are so important. We need more blogs like this to shake up the complacency, because the smug and sanctimonious MSM in Ireland never will.

    The child-care situation is much worse in Ireland than in the the US. Nothing to do with globalism, everything to do with the fact that the ROI has a social organization and culture than is closer to mediterranean countries than northern european countries. Mediterranean countries do child-care very badly and that’s why they are facing demographic collapse. In another 15 years, if nothing changes, Ireland will be in the same demographic boat. Again, nothing to do with globalism and everything to do with national culture.

  • Crataegus

    J McConnell

    A lot of truth in what you say. Imply criticism and risk wrath. Some of the problems are self evident such as the cost of housing and the consequence that has on the family unit. When we say these things we are not trying to run the country down just stating an opinion openly.

  • Crataegus


    With globalisation one invests where it best suits to produce, for some that is the cheapest location for production for others it is the place that gives the quickest or best return.

    Visit China and consider carefully if the country is building up wealth on the back of well paid jobs with good working conditions or is it on the back of sweat shops?

    I have recently been involved in something in India the main reason was the ridiculous time it was going to take to get statutory approvals in NI so I thought I don’t have to put up with this crap. My impressions of India are extremely low labour costs, very little effective regulation, superb skills, really positive attitude, terrible living conditions for many of the work force, and quick turn around time.

    The amount of work needed to be done in India is staggering. Lots of opportunities and a really good place to work, no UDA, no UVF, no Republicans. People talk about Indian admin being of Byzantine complexity yes it can be trying but I would much rather deal with it than what passes for organisation in NI.

    Basically we are keeping inflation down by exporting production to cheaper parts of the world, but the idea that this is sustainable and will remain as it is at present is folly. Why should someone in India continue to earn one thirtieth of what someone in Ireland earns for a shorter working week? As their costs increase several possibilities, firstly production moves to say Africa or secondly they slowly lose their competitive edge on one hand that gives us renewed opportunity but it could also cause us serious inflation as their costs rise in comparison to ours. Or once there is enough wealth and a large enough middle class in India and China their production will be less reliant on the West. This has the potential to cause a sharp rise in material costs worldwide.

    We are part of a global market, what we buy and how it is produced has consequences elsewhere. I would like to see the West trying to set up some system where there was some basic standards for production world wide. But how can we the task is well nigh impossible? How do you improve housing conditions in India or Brazil? How do you ensure that people are paid enough to have somewhere decent to live. How do you know that the increased wage will not simply push up the cost of land and end up doing nothing?

    In the long run can the likes of Ireland with comparatively high labour costs compete? I doubt it. In the West I doubt if we will ever again have times as good as they are now.

    It is not a criticism of Ireland specifically to state there are problems with unchecked globalisation and there are perhaps other considerations.

    Anyway heading East tomorrow for at least a few weeks so sorry if unable to reply to points raised.

  • pid

    J McConnell

    “the ROI has a social organization and culture than is closer to mediterranean countries than northern european countries”

    Hadn’t previously noticed I was travelling into Northern Europe on leaving Pettigo.

    Any evidence for your assertion?

  • Mick Fealty

    Henry, try checking out the Republic category ( There are some neg stories in there, a fair amount of neutral and some positive ones.

  • abucs

    i agree Crataegus,

    the trouble with people in India having their wages increase by 300% is that everything in the west will go up by 300% too.

    In the west we are used to cheap imports, a social security system and the relative distribution of income.

    This distribution has had great impacts on culture, education and expectations.

    And it will come under threat due to the wealth imbalance being reversed through globalisation.

    We’re used to the outsourcing of manufacturing work or the solution of immigrants to do the menial jobs.

    When the global currencies balance up, i think there will be a great shock.

    i agree with you that it might not be this good for a quite a long while.

  • Ringo

    To be honest Henry, I’d put it in the same basket as all the ‘aren’t we an economic miracle’ articles that get blogged here too.

    Why is it that every week there is some study that finds that we are either at the very best or very worst in the EU at something or other, and every news outlet seems to think that it merits a write-up? Last week we even had both.

    This morning I’m hearing that our 16-24 year olds are smoking more dope than anyone else, apparently. 10% of whom claim to have a ‘dependency’. Funnily enough, they seem to have resolved their ‘drug issues’ by their thirties. Why do we need a study to tell us that people smoke dope in their college years and give up when they cut their hair and get a job?

    Ireland has the highest percentage of utterly irrelevant reports and half-baked analyses in the EU. Fact.

    Do we need a report to tell us that negelecting parenting and poor family cohesion is bad? Does it mean that we are facing some sort of meltdown?

    Considering that those just reaching retirement around Europe at the moment had to put up with their houses being shelled, Daddies being killed in places like Volgograd etc.. during their formative years, and the place still turned out ok – the fact that we are spending a bit too long in work will be meaningless in the future.

    Isn’t it amazing that we had any level of behavioural and development issues in the paradise of the 80’s when nearly all the mammies and a lot of daddies were at home?

  • Young Fogey

    I suspect like a lot of other people who grew up in the ’80s my family life was disrupted by the fact that in our wonderful, non-globalised, socially cohesive society my father had to travel to England and America to find work.

    Oh, and if our new globalised world is so evil, how come Irish families have largely shed the casual brutality that was part of most of them, north or south, Catholic or Protestant, that bedevilled them for so long.

  • Henry94


    It does concern me that one of our long term commenters apparently feels such disaffection from ‘the project’. But I also feel it is important that Slugger maintains the freedom to make its own choices and be praised or damned for making them.

    I’m far from disaffected nor am I sensitive to criticism of the Irish economy. I just think the criticism should be based on something solid.

    Of course Slugger should make its own choices. I was only saying.


    I think you are correct.

  • Dualta

    Just a point on globalisation which I can’t shake.

    Marx argued that in order for a society to become communist it needed to go through the various epochs which he described, e.g. tribalism, feudalism, capitalism etc.

    The capitalist phase is necessary, he claimed, in order to ensure that the means of production are in place to allow for society’s material needs to be fulfilled.

    Interestingly, China is now moving apace through the final epoch, insofar as they are allowing capitalist economics to flourish in order to develop their means of production. Many have argued that both Russia and China’s move to communism was too soon, and that their means of production was not, and has not been able to cope.

    The globalisation of the world economy, if Marx was right, should see the onset of a global emiseration of the proletariat, which is a necessary phase in the realisation of the communist project. Marx argued that communism in one country would not work in the long term, as it would become a warped and twisted dictatorial system.

    If Marx was right in all of this then shouldn’t socialists welcome globalisation with open arms? This is not off subject, by the way. Your woman’s argument is effectively that globalisation brings on the emiseration of the proletariat. Classic socialist stuff really.

  • Greenflag

    Young Fogey and Ringo have got it right . Back to the numbers

    ‘New figures from the Department of Finance show that the Government took in an extra €980 million more than expected in taxes during the first six months of the year.

    The figures also show that Government spending was €550 million below target.

    The Minister for Finance, Brian Cowen, said that if the figures continue the way they are going he expects Government borrowing to be closer to €1 billion at the end of this year rather than the €3 billion originally expected.’

    So Bertie will go for a buy out election to keep him on deck as ships captain . Meanwhile Peter Hain keeps bailing out the NI Titanic even though it has long since sunk.

    It’s a huge question ”globalisation’. When everybody is ‘competitive’ nobody will be competitive . The old fallacy of composition conundrum . Those who survive best globalisation’s will be those who are quick and flexible in their response to the challenges ahead . Those societies who’s politicians are even unable to have face to face are already doomed .

  • Mick Fealty


    “I was only saying”.


  • Henry94

    It is in reality protectionism that should be described as a race to the bottom.

    In the Ireland of the 50s when women had to leave the Civil Service on marriage and when the unproductive and inefficient were indulged, the economy was a shambles. Thousands left every year. It seemed like the natural order.

    In the 80s when Ireland tried a high-tax anti-enterprise system mass unemployment again seemed like the natural order. A government minister opined that “we can’t all live on a small island” as again thousands left every year.

    Now that we have a successful economy with thousands arriving every year people who support a return to the earlier disastrous policies are reduced to warning that it will all end in tears.

    It won’t. Yes some jobs will go to Poland but as Poland develops it will become a market for Ireland. We are already doing a billion euros worth of business a year with Poland. We are exporting more to China and India too.

    The good news for the north is that the south has proved that even with uninspiring politicans rapid progress is possible if the policies are right.

  • Puzzled


    You are surely not one of those who believe that total deregulation is wonderful? No standards for production, no rights for workers etc Or perhaps you prefer to leave that to individual countries? The problem is if you are a weak country its hard to lay down too many rules.

    China, totalitarian regime forcing through industrial expansion, rights of citizens zero, environmental problems everywhere. If you are at the top of the Global wave its great if you are in the trough it can be pretty awful.

    But why not go the whole hog and have the free mobility of Labour. It is the logical conclusion. If you don’t you are simply introducing protectionism.

    I like global trade but let us not get too euphoric.

  • abucs

    Well, i believe that it is Asia that will benefit from globalisation so i’m currently relocating there.

    I wish you all the best.

  • Crataegus


    Just heading that way myself, makes sense money goes much further and better to invest in a rising market.

    What some don’t realize; it is jobs and money that is moving east. I will be amazed if the West can maintain its position. Looks like dangerous times ahead.

    Must dash

  • Young Fogey

    The trendy-left argument that China is destroying its environment and exploiting its workers doesn’t stand up to close scrutiny. As its people become wealthier, they are already demanding better environmental standards, better safety at work (look at the way mining accidents, depressingly common in China, are no longer able to be swept under the carpet), and better living conditions.

    Moreover as China becomes more and more economically dependent on skilled workers, it can’t afford to treat them too badly or they will up sticks and go to a country that will treat them well. Bang goes a lot of investment.

    The idea that economic growth for some means beggaring others is just stupid. Otherwise we would never have been able to leave the Stone Age. The sad thing is that the people who bleat loudest and longest about third world poverty are the same people who complain about the economic growth that is its only possible cure.

    See Spiked for a diffrerent pov on all this.