Globalisation Winners and Losers

updated May 2016

Accelerated now by computing power, satellite technology and the efficiency of container shipping, globalisation has drawn attention to itself on account of its far-reaching consequences.

In particular, the economic benefits of greater international trade and investment are distributed unevenly. The disturbing rise of global inequality suggests that the winners in our interdependent world may gain their prosperity at the expense of the losers. Comforting theories that rising wealth “trickles down” or “floats all boats” have lost credibility, whether between richer and poorer countries or within a single country.

At national level, the economic opportunities presented by globalisation have been responsible in part for the success of countries such as China, Vietnam and Brazil in achieving significant poverty reduction. But most low income countries have been less fortunate and there is concern that the global poor have been left behind in the slipstream. The winners and losers of globalisation have become painfully differentiated.

Whereas sharply rising volumes of foreign trade and investment over the last twenty years have transformed standards of living in industrialised countries, the number of people living in extreme poverty in sub-Saharan Africa increased by 101 million between 1990 and 2012, the most recent year for which reliable data is available.

Whereas internet technology has revolutionised our capacity for knowledge and interaction, swathes of South Asia and Africa provide no electricity, let alone computers. Whereas the global supply chains of our supermarket culture deliver exotic year-round affordable foods, almost 800 million people in the developing world experience hunger.

Contemporary globalisation is therefore linked with widening global inequality. The continuing post-colonial search for an effective development model for the losers of globalisation reflects the anxiety of the winners.


Nancy Birdsall, President of the Center for Global Development, offers a very brief explanation of why we should be concerned about the effect of globalisation on inequality.

Martin Whittaker on inequality and capitalism
from Ford Foundation

more Globalisation briefings
Global Governance
International Development Model
Globalisation and Environmental Limits
Globalisation and Migrant Workers
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