Impacts on the North: Globalisation of Knowledge as a Race to the Bottom or Industrial Transition with New Arrangements
From the expansion of industrialisation in the twentieth century, workers’ collective position of power and their individual existence have repeatedly been undermined by plant shutdowns or downsizing due to relocation of production elsewhere. Since the 1960s and 1970s, multinational companies have internationalised considerable parts of labour-intensive production into the subsidiaries in low-cost areas. This trend continued in the 1980s and 1990s when companies increasingly outsourced and offshored further low-skilled activities into independent firms located in the Global South. Substantial relocation of manufacturing resulted, accompanied by significant deindustrialisation in some regions of the core economies. Since the 1990s, the internationalisation of work has been moving up the value chain from assembly up to R&D (Deschryvere and Ali-Yrkkö 2013: 180). After the globalisation of low-skilled work, a worldwide reorganisation of sophisticated tasks is now underway (Horgos 2013: 100), with ‘southern engines’ (Das and Han 2013: 276-7) increasingly challenging knowledge-intensive production and therefore jobs in regions of the North. Some predict that growing worldwide competition for skilled but low-paid work is likely to cause either a reduction of wages, or growing unemployment of skilled employees, or a combination of both in the countries of the North (Horgos 2013: 100).