Understanding the Human Rights

Globalization and labour rights

Labour rights are human rights which encompass the right to collective bargaining; the elimination of forced and slave labour; the abolition of child labour; and the eradication of any forms of discrimination at the workplace’’ (Mayer et al. 131). Globalization is “the growing interpenetration of states, markets, communications, and ideas across borders’’ (Mayer et al. 131). There are two points of view that have created tension between globalization and labour rights. On one hand businesses need to be competitive, thus require labour rights to be flexible while on the other side labour rights have to be guaranteed at all times. This paper seeks to understand how globalization affects the enhancement of labour rights.

Proponents of liberal trade argue that for businesses to be able to offer consumers with quality products at a cheap price, workers need to be more productive as this will in turn spur economic growth and improve standard of living. This view suggests that tough labour laws are a hindrance to economic success and better living conditions which can be improved by the intensification of trade exchanges, which would eventually foster better employment opportunities for workers’’(Mayer et al. 136).

Supporters of solid labour rights argue that while globalization enhances economic growth and working conditions in 3rd world countries it leads to deterioration of working conditions in developed countries. Globalization demands increased labour flexibility and competitiveness’’ (Mayer et al. 136) this has leads to the adoption of labour conditions that violate basic human rights. Tenants of strong labour rights argue that developing countries compete to offer loose working conditions and minimum salary standards, while making unionization of workers particularly difficult’’ (Mayer et al. 135) in order to attract a wider source of foreign investment. This strategy renders workers in developed countries less competitive thus having to lower their salary demands and at the same time accept poorer working conditions. Thus labour rights have to be protected by all means in order to overturn this “race to the bottom” (Mayer et al. 138) situation for labour rights.

In developing countries economic growth is of paramount importance, thus these governments prioritize economic growth over political freedom. They argue that the principal comparative advantage of their countries resides in the availability of a large pool of surplus cheap labour as well as in the generally lax labour standards’’ (Mayer et al. 138). Thus strict adherence to tough labour laws would interfere with this advantage.

In conclusion, to reverse this race to the bottom’’(Mayer et al. 137) the two opposing ideologies have to be reconciled in order to enhance economic growth in developing countries while protecting the labour rights already gained in developed countries.

Development of gender rights

Human rights are the fundamental freedoms and rights to which all humans are entitled to simply for being human ’’ (Mayer et al. 156).This paper seeks to trace the development of women’s rights as human right through three stages; sex-based rights , gender-based rights and contemporary gender rights.

Sex-based rights

Sex is the biological distinction of human beings as male or female, and was one of the basis on which basic human right were not to be denied. The first stage of gender rights was idealized in the universal declaration of human rights in 1948 which was based on the fact that all human beings possess certain equal and inalienable rights’’ (Mayer et al. 156). It would have been virtually impossible for women to promote their gender-based rights if universal equality was not captured at this early stage. Three human rights were advocated for as women rights; political, economic and social rights. Politically women gained the right to vote and stand for public office in elections just like men. Economically women gained the right to earn equal remunerations for equal work. On the social front women could now enter into marriage freely, start a family, and possessed equal rights during marriage and at its dissolution ’’ (Mayer et al. 156).

Gender-based rights

Gender can be defined as “those characteristics of men and women that are socially constructed’’ (Mayer et al. 158). A new concept on women rights were born in the 1970’s where there was need to “address issues particular to women, resulting from gender differences and cultural and traditional practices’’ (Mayer et al. 168). This allowed special attention on issues that are unique to women only. Advocates of women rights argued that though women legally had all the rights they faced “structural and systemic constraints’’ (Mayer et al. 160) such that their freedom of choice was hindered.

Contemporary gender rights

These rights were conceptualized at the Beijing +5 conference of 2000 where it was concluded that “the gender rights agenda required readjustment as a result of the changed global economic, technological, and security environments” (Mayer et al. 164). This would allow attention to be paid on modern issues that tend to derail women’s rights such as HIV/AIDS, child rights, rape and other crimes that are focused on women.

In conclusion it has been seen that the fight for women’s right is not a destination but rather a journey that started with the universal declaration of human rights in 1948 and continues till today.


Mayer, Jean Francois, et al. Understanding Human Rights. New York: Nelson, 2008.Print.

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