Thursday, February 3, 2011

Globalization Part 3: How I was a part of it

When I was in high school in Malaysia all I knew about factories was that they carried local names. I had never heard about "multinational" companies or "offshore manufacturing plants". A few foreign owned industries were operating in Malysia then (such as Lever Brothers) but they were there to supply to the local market. Manufacturing plants like Intel, Motorola, and Fairchild were quite different entities altogether. Unlike Lever Brothers, all the goods produced by these "offshore" plants were re-exported. Offshore manufacturing plants had not taken off in a big way yet when I was in high school.

Finishing high school, I went on to study in America. I had expected to work in a local engineering firm in Malaysia when I graduated in 1982. That was not to be. The Malaysian papers were full of job advertisements for semiconductor companies. I got a job with Harris Semiconductor although I had never planned for a career in this field. That was how I became a part of the globalization trend.

I enjoyed working for the multinational companies (I later worked for Motorola, and briefly for Intel). It was like I was working in the parent company in the U.S. itself. Working condition was great and I got to visit the parent company about once or twice a year, flying business class, and staying at 5-star hotels. Never mind that I was paid a fraction of what my counterparts were paid in the U.S.

As the years passed, I saw my U.S. counterparts getting retrenched while their jobs were transferred to the Malaysian factories. We kept our jobs because the company gradually axed theirs. They were directed to train us and to share all their expertise with us. They must have really felt horrible but they never showed any ill feelings.

That is what globalization does. Capitalists get to move their capital to wherever they can maximize their profits, disregarding what happens to the workers in their home countries. Due to greater job opportunities my livelihood improved. So did many others' in Malaysia. My American counterparts' livelihood took a plunge.

No comments: