Trade, foreign policy, diplomacy and health

Vulnerable Groups

While there is agreement that globalization has both positive and negative effects, it is less clear exactly how these negative effects exert their impact on people's lives. Whether globalization is the cause of increased vulnerability or whether vulnerability is maintained by an inability to maximize the benefits of globalization is not clear. It is probable that both forces are at work. Thus vulnerable groups such as the elderly, the young, and the poor are already so marginalized that they cannot benefit from globalization, and are increasing in numbers as globalization increases the gap between rich and poor.

The issue here is about who is marginalized by globalization and thus does not benefit from the process and who is already so marginalized that they are unable to benefit from the process. Of course, the two groups are not mutually exclusive. Issues of marginalization are particularly important in defining both the nature of vulnerable groups and how they are affected.

For some countries, it is argued that export-led growth and the opening of domestic markets to foreign competition have facilitated rapid economic growth and economic development. However, not all countries have benefited. Those with weak institutions and economies are often unable to handle the social and economic change required to access the benefits of globalization.

It is argued that poverty is the main cause and result of marginalization. Poverty (abject or extreme) is defined as living on less than the equivalent of US$1 a day. Absolute poverty is a situation where people can only meet the essentials for bare subsistence and are extremely vulnerable to life-threatening change. Poverty is also measured in terms of the gap between different standards of living. Such a measurement is referred to as relative poverty: when people have access to resources so far below those commanded by an average member of the same society that they are excluded from that society's ordinary functions.

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