Globalization – the integration of world markets and mass sharing of information –has left virtually no part of life in the 21st century unaffected. Rapid advances in communication technology have multiplied human connections and knowledge at lightning speed, shifted values, eroded cultures and revolutionized the job market – to name just a few consequences. In contemporary life, globalization's innumerable effects, not all of which are positive, can be seen on every television, smartphone, tablet and computer screen.
Life in the pre-globalized world offered significantly fewer options within many markets. For example, someone wishing to purchase any consumer good would visit a brick-and-mortar store. The internet has brought vendors in Seoul to the living rooms of Seattle, forcing local and even big-box retailers to compete with small foreign businesses and oftentimes individual sellers. Globalized markets have also shifted many consumers into the role of supplier and producer, offering their skills and goods for sale via online message boards, such as Craigslist, and auction sites, such as eBay.
Prior to the spread of mass communication technologies and global free trade, many national cultures were relatively insular and unaffected by the outside world. In the globalized world of the 21st century, long-standing values and traditions in many countries are being traded for the newest smartphone or the coolest Western car. When peoples recognize that desirable foreign goods are available for purchase through integrated markets, they reach for those goods and the higher standard of living and social status they suggest, increasing economic growth and decreasing cultural identity. Such was the case in a 2012 study on native Nigerians in which almost 40 percent of respondents expressed preference for foreign (Western) cultures and cultural products.
When the world's largest markets are integrated, the countries involved are to varying degrees dependent upon one another, making political instability extremely undesirable. For example, a political crisis in China may trigger an economic slump. Companies who produce goods to export to China find themselves with excess inventory, which leads to a loss and decrease in profits. If the slump is prolonged, companies that rely heavily on the Chinese market may have to lay off workers to save money. Those workers will join the ranks of the unemployed, placing a strain on another country's economy. Globalization has created markets so integrated that little of importance can happen in one country that does not have an economic domino effect.
Integrated markets have had a profound impact on the 21st-century workplace. English-speaking non-Americans who can work online from other countries and are willing to work for comparatively low wages are frequently favored by large employers, leaving many unskilled (or inadequately skilled) Americans jobless. Additionally, as commerce goes increasingly digital (to accommodate foreign markets) and fewer brick-and-mortar stores are built, as a consequence fewer employees are hired.
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