Women are better off in globalised countries

Globalisation is a dirty word to the xenophobic Right and the protectionist Left. They hate what it represents: the economic integration of the people of the world. By economic integration I don’t mean a common currency but the freedom of people to trade one with another regardless of international borders.

Foreign Policy magazine recently published its annual Globalisation Index. The index, in my opinion, has some flaws; it reflects the values of the authors and it attempts to measure things that cannot easily be measured. For instance it gives extra points to nations for signing international treaties. That, to my mind, is relatively unimportant. Signing a treaty is easy and the treaty itself may well be a bad one. But the authors are not trying to measure the benefits or hazards of the policies, only the ‘integration’ that various nations have with the rest of the world. I don’t happen to think a signature on a treaty is necessarily a sign of integration or meaningful globalisation.

However, that does not mean there is no value in the index and what it shows. What comes as no surprise is that the most globalised nations of the world are also the most economically free nations of the world. The overlap is rather extensive. All of the ten most economically free nations in the world are also listed in the top twenty of the Globalisation Index. Only Hong Kong does not appear in both and that’s because the Globalisation Index does not count Hong Kong separately.

Economic freedom at home is directly related to global economic freedom. It’s difficult to have one without the other. And, as the trends clearly show, it’s impossible to have a successful nation without economic freedom.

The Globalisation Index looks at economic integration, which includes trade, foreign investment, and investment income; technological connectivity (measured by internet users, hosts and secure severs); personal contact, including travel, tourism, international telephone traffic, person-to-person financial transfers, and political engagement, which includes membership in international organisations, treaties ratified and other issues I don¹t consider very critical.

There were two side bars to the report that I did find quite interesting and, when it comes to the lives of people, very important. The index plotted levels of globalisation against the UN’s most recent ranking in the Gender-related Development Index. The correlation was astounding. There is a direct correlation between the well-being of women in a nation and its level of globalisation.

Women are better off in those nations that are most globalised. Nations with little globalisation are also likely to be miserable places for women to live. No nation with a high level of globalisation treats women badly. And no nation with low levels of globalisation treats women well. As the index noted, ‘overall, women tend to be better off in countries that are the most globally integrated.’

The same correlation was found when globalisation was graphed against life expectancy at birth. The Index reported: ‘Some critics claim that globalisation impoverishes governments, reduces social benefits, and deprives workers of the conditions required for healthy lives. Were that true, people in the world’s most global societies would likely lead lives that, as British philosopher Thomas Hobbes said, are ‘nasty, brutish, and short.’ To test that hypothesis, we compared the rankings of this year’s. Globalisation Index with the latest UN date on each country’s life expectancy at birth and found that ‘...people in the more global countries tend to live the longest.’

Some critics might argue that the most globalised nations are the most economically developed, which thus skews the facts. But the Index notes that their conclusions ‘hold true when only developing countries are examined.’ The fact remains that nations that are globally integrated do better than nations that are not. This is borne out when one looks at African nations.

Botswana had the highest globalisation rating in Africa. It rates highly on economic freedom, rates highly in levels of globalisation, and has a real GDP growth rate approaching 5%. Kenya, in comparison, ranks near the bottom of the Globalisation Index, has a mediocre economic freedom rating and a real growth rate of only 1%. South Africa, which previously ranked 38th out 62 nations, dropped 11 places this year. Its economic freedom rating remains middling and it has a real growth rate of 2.6%.

The World Bank noted that globalised developing countries had economic growth rates of only 1%, on average, in the 60s. But in the 70s that rate grew to 3%, 4% by the 80s, and 5% by the 90s. Developing nations that embrace globalisation and economic liberalism are therefore prospering and catching up with the wealthiest nations of the world. There can be no doubt that globalisation, in the sense of increased trade and contact across borders, is good for the majority of the world’s people.

Author: Jim Peron is the executive director of the Institute for Liberal Studies (Auckland, New Zealand). This article may be republished without prior consent but with acknowledgement to the author. The views expressed in the article are the author’s and are not necessarily shared by the members of the Free Market Foundation.

FMF Feature Article / 27 April 2004
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