What Is Social Dumping?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Nancy Fann-Im
  • Last Modified Date: 10 October 2019
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Social dumping is the use of labor with wages and benefits that do not meet the set standard in a country for the purpose of cutting costs of production. Companies may rely on foreign labor or specially negotiated deals to find employees amenable to substandard conditions. Their use of cheap labor allows them to increase profits, as they can sell goods at standard prices even though they cost less to make. Nations in many areas of the world have concerns about social dumping and have taken action to reduce it.

Labor protections are supposed to apply to all workers. In social dumping, companies skirt legal protections for laborers. They may offer the bare minimum to satisfy the law, or may actively flout it. Their workers make less money than employees in comparable jobs and may not have benefits and other protections that are standard for laborers. Companies may relocate to take advantage of foreign workers, and thus cause job loss in one nation while pursuing laborers in another.

Workers in such facilities may be immigrants or residents of an economically depressed area. Their bargaining power is limited because of their low social status. The offer of a job, even at low wages, is too tempting to pass up, and thus workers will agree to contracts that do not meet industry standards or put them at a disadvantage. Social dumping can allow companies to move production to avoid high taxes and tariffs, not just higher wages.


Critics of social dumping argue that companies gain an unfair advantage by cutting costs and thus have a leg up in a market where other companies may abide by labor standards and practices. This is a particular concern when the process involves relocating to a country to take advantage of a special deal on labor conditions. Companies may attract foreign investment and operations by granting concessions, and this allows companies to relocate to nations with already favorable labor laws and get even more favorable treatment from the government for doing business there.

Other economists and market analysts argue that what some call “social dumping” is simply the natural ebb and flow of market conditions. Companies will naturally seek out ways to lower the cost of production, including relocating to take advantage of better business conditions. This counterargument suggests that nations worried about social dumping should consider their own labor laws first and determine whether it is possible to change the regulatory climate to encourage businesses to stay.


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Post 3

@alisha-- I agree with you, but I don't think it's as difficult as it seems.

There was a lot of social dumping taking place in Europe. Many European companies had hired foreign workers from poorer Eastern European countries. But when some of the same countries entered the European Union, and fair labor laws were implemented, social dumping largely ended.

European companies had to increase their wages and give benefits to those workers. Some of them might have hired workers from Africa and elsewhere to keep costs low. But as more and more countries become wealthier and developed, I think this issue is going to take care of itself on it's own.

What do you think?

Post 2

@ddljohn-- I want all laborers to be treated fairly and I don't want Americans to lose their jobs either. But sometimes I do feel like anti-social dumping movements are a loss cause, at least it is without global government intervention.

Firms have always done whatever they can to decrease their costs and increase their profits. As long as financial markets exist, so will social dumping.

The only way we can possibly stop it is if international organizations and national governments intervene and force firms to abide by labor rules. This is the only way to change the system. But it's highly doubtful that it will happen because not only firms but national governments in many developing countries benefit from this too (read corruption).

Post 1

Social dumping happens in the US as well. I was not aware of it until recently when I saw a film called "Fast Food Inc" that shows a hamburger meat producing factory on the Texas-Mexico border.

The workers at the factory were all illegal immigrants from Mexico who not only accepted lower wages for really difficult jobs, but also did not have health insurance or other benefits because of their illegal status.

This is social dumping as well, it doesn't have to happen overseas. I'm all for anti-social dumping movements and I hope we can eliminate social dumping in the US and then work to eliminate them abroad.

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