Globalization and Social Work

Globalization affects nations all over the world and is currently one of the most talked about concepts regarding the future of the economy. Globalization is a blanketed term that encompasses the integration of economies in several different ways. One such way is the incorporation of like ideologies across a massive span of consumers. To get these messages across to the intended population, as well as produce the means to effectively become a global concept, many societies must significantly alter their previous way of living to accommodate the changes globalization brings. These changes affect the indigenous populations of these regions in both positive and negative ways. When disparity arises, it is the economical defects globalization has on the indigenous population that is highlighted most. This is where social workers find their services needed in international advocacy, policy change, and the advancement of social welfare. This paper will look at how globalization interferes with indigenous practices, and what roles social workers play in solving international crises arisen because of transnational interference.

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What is Globalization? (#1)

Globalization is the idea that the many workings of a society such as business concepts, governments, trends, etc. should be integrated into other cultures and populations on a global scale (DiNitto & Johnson, 2016). The reasons for transcending these concepts internationally vary between economical gain and the promotion of human advancement. The concept of globalization takes on several meanings as its definition depends on the perspective. From an economic standpoint, globalization is the transference of production processes from one industrialized country to another. It is also seen as the liberation of international finance systems and is attributed to cost reductions of transportation and communications (Lyons, 2006). Other perspectives have focused on the definition of globalization as being a broader term, encompassing a myriad of foreign influences that alter practices and extend relationships to other states and countries.

Globalization has extended an interconnectedness of goods to countries all over the world. Places like McDonalds were once small businesses that were only found in a few cities across the United States. Now there are thousands of McDonalds spread across hundreds of countries (Powell & Geoghegan, 2005). Where once it took companies decades to expand their business to other countries, the evolution of industry and technology has now allowed startup companies to expand businesses oversees within a short period of time. The same can be seen for the automotive industry and the spread of car ownership. Detroit used to be the capital of the automotive industry, but once vehicle production was moved oversees, cars became common commodities. Globalization is directly correlated with the expansion of well-known empires and continues to be an integral part of corporate expansion.

The most associated institutions of globalization are the World Bank, the World Trade Organization (WTO), and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The World Bank funds capital projects on an international level (Polack, 2004). This institution’s main objective is to promote development in underdeveloped countries. The World Bank typically funds projects by lending money to the political elites of these countries, as it strongly favors strong dictatorships (Jordan, 2008). The WTO differs from the World Bank in that this institution specifically focuses on global trade rules between countries, which helps foster trade (Polack, 2004). Commercial interests supersede any foreseen barriers to global expansion, which means the rights of the people are not always acknowledged, if acknowledged at all (Jordan, 2008). This unfortunate view of global development shines an ill-fated light on the values of the monetarily elite. The IMF maximizes financial stability by playing a central role balancing the payments and financial crises of international trade (Polack, 2004). All three of these institutions play an integral part of globalization financing.

The Myth of Globalization (#6)

There is a consensus by many that globalization is a myth; that it is merely a neo-liberal fa?§ade of recycled capitalist ideations (Powell & Geoghegan, 2005). To understand the myth, it is important to first recognize what neoliberalism means. Neoliberalism favors free-market capitalism by acting as a philosophical foundation for how a capitalist world should function. The neo-liberalist seeks personal gain in every transaction of their life and does not see a welfare state as contributing to the success or overall wellbeing of the economy (Polack, 2004). Globalization claims that it addresses the need of many by bringing transport systems and communications technology to countries that would otherwise never have had the access (Lyons, 2006). What is not mentioned is the lack of a minimum wage and barbaric work schedules that contribute to the conception of these projects (Powell & Geoghegan, 2005).

There a few other reasons why globalization is considered a myth by critics. The first is that the elites associated with the global economy boast that there has been a reduction in income inequality when in fact, quite the opposite is true (Polack, 2004). Research shows that the gap between the poor and the elite have grown extensively in the last 25 years. Another myth that has been proven false is that the profits made through globalization trickles down to the poorest part of the population. While this has been proven to be true in a handful of countries, it is not true for all of them (the US included). One of the greatest debated myths regarding globalization is that trade is what is responsible for inequality. In truth, it is not so much trade that is to blame for earning inequality, rather it is a combination of concepts including lack of education, the increase of technology, and the decline of labor unions that create economic hardship (Polack, 2004).

Globalization Success (#3)

There are some key elements of globalization that can be viewed as successful, having caused beneficial improvements in what were previously penurious regions. It is important to note that the accomplishments of globalization are relative and have been the cause of scrutiny among many in the helping field (Jordan, 2008). One of the first major developments of globalization was the conception of transport systems (Lyons, 2006). Airplanes, ships, and trains are just a few of the mass transport systems that have connected friends, families, and new experiences to those who would have otherwise remained immobile in their lifetime. This type of transportation gave the world an accessible means of traveling never before seen. Mass transport has assisted in exposing culture and unfamiliar practices to others all over the world, contributing to the blossoming of cultural enlightenment. As for business relations, mass transport has made shipping goods and services faster and more efficient for both the producer and consumer.

Another major development that has caused similar achievements through globalization is information technology (Lyons, 2006). This technology grew from telegraphs and Morse code to telephones, fax, email, and smart phones. The interconnectedness that this technology has on the world is phenomenal. No longer does it take a three-day ride on a horse to deliver a message to a person in another city. People from all over the world can simply pick up a telephone and make contact to another person on the other side of the globe. This technology has provided a means for emergency response, and ways to efficiently rely crucial information to intended recipients in an instant. As with the transport systems, this technology has globally given people the freedom to travel without fear of losing contact with the important systems in their life. Also like transport systems, information technology strengthens business relations by offering an easier way for communication to be made for various corporate handlings.

Industrial, medical, and technological advances proved to be another globalization success that has helped indigenous people over time (Lyons, 2006). Farming became easier and productivity increased with the movement industrial inventions have had across the globe. Better farm equipment, agricultural scientific breakthroughs, and the spread of these advancements through mass transport and communications are helping to feed people all over the world. Medical advances are combating once debilitating diseases/afflictions such as polio, cancer, and HIV, which at one time were a death sentence (Jordan, 2008). The progress in technology has also been a staple in assisting with lifesaving medical machinery and other integral inventions concerning the social welfare of global inhabitants. Many of these breakthroughs have stretched across the world and have in some ways created a stronger nation. However, it still leaves a person to wonder at what cost these breakthroughs are being made.

Globalization Failings (#4)

Having looked at the successes of globalization, it is important to reference the negative impact and failings of globalization as well. Three flaws that stand out more than others are the global debt crisis, the labor exploitation of the Global South, and the general happiness in relation to both sides of the corporate spectrum (Polack, 2004). The global debt crisis has been regarded as responsible for most of the shortcomings related to globalization. The reasoning for this is attributed to the loans given by the World Bank and other northern financial institutions to the countries of the Global South (Jordan, 2008). The Global South were a collection of countries that were not as affluent as Europe, Spain, or France during the 1400’s. Countries in the Global South received these loans to implement large-scale infrastructure projects just after World War II (Polack, 2004). Unfortunately, these projects either failed or only advanced the elite and/or interests of corporations located in the north. This left the people of the Global South still responsible for all accrued debt.

The debt accrued from the loans provided by the northern investors directly contributed to the globalization defect regarding the labor exploitation of the Global South (Polack, 2004). Many of the inhabitants of the Global South were displaced, driven into deeper poverty, and forced to scapegoat the responsibility of repaying the debt. The people of these populations have resorted to establishing free trade zones (FTZs) to compete with other countries for outside capital and labor income. This is a big win for outside corporations because they don’t have barriers such as child labor laws or minimum wage to deal with. These companies also get away with not having to pay as much for taxes and tariffs on commodities within FTZs. This not only exploits the laborers of these countries by not paying them near what they should (some accrue what is equivalent to less than a US $1 per day), but also by working children and adults excruciatingly long hours (Jordan, 2008).

Dealing with extreme poverty and debt (especially when it is accrued by the hand of others) and slave-like labor is a burden that many in the Global South are still experiencing to this day (Polack, 2004). What is interesting is that studies show that countries whose focus is not on increased individual incomes have higher averages of subjective well-being (SWB) than what would normally be predicted for countries living in turmoil (Jordan, 2008). The reason this is a weakness in globalization is because of the supposed purpose for expanding processes of production to poor countries. Supporters of globalization gloat that this expansion creates economic growth and while that may be true for some parts of the world, many have not experienced that part of the deal. It seems that the values of the globalization supporters lean more towards individual gain, and in no way towards those who are not in the same standing as the economically elite.

Civil Society (#10)

Promoting human welfare and advocating for social justice are two key principals in the composition of social work. There are values to globalization that stand out as positive and are contributing to the advancements for a better society, but as previously discussed, there are also many failings that are causing great need for the practice of social work on a global scale. Social workers have partnered with many of these communities by means of civil societies. A civil society acts as a middle ground between the state and the market (Powell & Geoghegan, 2005). These societies can range from members of a bowling league to large congregations of disenfranchised populations. Civil societies are also referred to as a third sector, with their function being to collaborate and listen to their people and communicate the needs of the society to advocators that can promote positive change within the community. Social workers are increasingly becoming global advocators. Social workers and civil societies partner to dismantle the structural inequality caused by globalization and enhance opportunities for the disadvantaged populations of those regions.

A civil society can only promote positive change if there is some form of social capital present. Social capital is the reciprocity between two or more individuals by means of cooperation (Jordan, 2008). Without some sort of agreements between civil societies and the State, there is no democracy and will therefore not lead to change. When social capital is present and thriving among troupes involved in a civil society, transformations such as enhanced healthcare and better work conditions will begin to appear (Powell & Geoghegan, 2005). Unions are a great example of how this entire process works. The workers of the company are a society and the owners of the company are the elite. Both want something out of the relationship; workers want to be paid and the elite want to run a successful business. If there is social capital present, the union acts as the mediator between the two entities to protect the workers and to also work with the owners (Jordan, 2008). This system fosters a working relationship and helps both parties obtain what they need.

The world would be a better place if civil societies and social capital were the norm of economical operations (Powell & Geoghegan, 2005). Unfortunately, it is not that way and globalization does not help. What happens when there is no social capital and the workers are not protected by rules and regulations like those in FTZs? Well, exactly what is currently happening in countries all over the world. Places known as sweatshops use laborer’s that are paid little to no money to work atrocious hours in free trade zones (Polack, 2004). Most billion-dollar companies in the US, including Disneyland and Walmart, utilize sweatshops in the FTZ regions to this day. Americans and other elitist countries alike have historically placed a blind eye about where their clothes and electronics are manufactured. There are no social workers or authorities to act as mediators and advocators in many of these places to stand up for the workers and help them get the resources or the compensation they need and deserve. In places like America where there are labor laws that protect minimum wage, hours worked, and child labor regulations, the citizens are na??ve about what is happening in places that do not share those resources.

The state of affairs caused by globalization weaknesses across the globe place a greater emphasis on the need of social workers than ever before. The field of social work is composed of caring, intellectual individuals that have a passion to promote social welfare within a society. With the plethora of adversities the world is currently facing, social workers have much to contribute (Jordan, 2008). A social worker wears many hats to accomplish countless tasks, but none are more important than their ability to access the value in others. This is noticeably needed in places where people are not able or allowed to see their potential or worth (Powell & Geoghegan, 2005). A social worker will stand beside those who cannot stand for themselves and bring the much-needed attention and resources needed to help guide those in need toward a direction of prosperity.

Think Globally, Act Locally (#11)

There are many ways in which globalization could improve practices all over the world. The phrase think globally, act locally holds two enlightening connotations that provide answers to some of the most prominent problems associated with globalization. , and what social workers and Concentrating globalization back to the local workings of the San Joaquin Central Valley is is highlighting the agricultural importance of exportation. The ethics of the social work practice have evolved with globalization to now include promotion of general welfare to societies both at the local and global level (Polack, 2004).

Think globally, act locally as it pertains to social workers consists of the education and knowledge gained by international studies and cultural diversity training. Thinking locally in this context has two meanings. The first refers to the local population of immigrants and how social workers can educate themselves on the cultural values and practices of these particular clients. The clients will better succeed if they are understood and partake in interventions that better suit their cultural identity. The other connotation of think globally, act locally pertains to the efforts of social workers internationally. It is important that social workers understand the practices of cultures they are working with on a global scale and be cognizant of not pushing American beliefs into their culture. knowledge transfer, the labor market, and cultural awareness

Social work on a global scale is an important concept to think about as the population grows larger, companies spread their enterprises farther, and cultural competency of social workers expand deeper. While globalization has helped drive several types of advancements throughout out the globe, there are several drawbacks in the ways globalization affects indegenious populations. Globalization is not necessarily bad a thing if rules and regulations were considered and met by partnering with representatives of each region. As companies look to globalize their businesses, they should also think locally about the cultures of the people who live there and what ramifications are made with their business intervening in place where they were their first. Social workers are great advocators for enlightening these business about the value of social welfare when capital gain is what is shading their eyes. The more social capital created within these regions and with the players in the game Globalization one day be a positive concept shared by all.


DiNitto & Johnson (2016). Social welfare politics and public policy (8th Ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.

Jordan, B. (2008). Social work and world poverty. International Social Work. 51 440-452.

Lyons, K (2006). Globalization and social work: International and local implications. British Journal of Social Work, 36, 365-380

Polack, R. (2004). Social justice and the global economy: New challenges for social work in the 21st Century. Social Work, 49, 281-290.

Powell, F., & Geoghegan, M. (2005). Reclaiming civil society: The future of global social work. European Journal of Social Work, 8, 129-144.

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Globalization and Social Work. (2019, Mar 18). Retrieved December 7, 2022 , from

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