Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Globalization: mini story part-2

They may look alike. Speak the same languange at work, bow to customers in a culture where hospitality and punctuality (and cuteness) are highly respected. But apparently they are different nationalities working for the same company. I don't know since when Japan Airlines and its group have been employing stewardess from Thailand. But they are many of them, mainly employed in domestic and regional (China, Korea) routes.

I guess this phenomenon is part of evolution in the global aviation industry. Increasing fuel prices, competition from international carriers, resulting in thin - and perhaps volatile - profit margin. The story goes that in the old days, working for Japan Airlines is one of that young Japanes female can dream about. Highly paid and able to travel around the world, visiting those I call Dunhill cities: Paris-London-New York, in a frequency matched only by movie stars or member of the Rolling Stones (airline tickets were more expensive in real terms compared to nowadays).

Now wages in aviation industry seems to be stagnant and benefit are trimmed, as airlines profit are squeezed. In short, real income compared to other industries is not that great. Thus working as an Airline stewardess is no longer that glamourous. With Japan real appreciation due to increase in price of non-traded goods in the late '80s, labor market went tight and wage in all services industries also creeped up.

But Japan Airlines can not give up and start to hire old women (sometimes mean too) like what the US airline carriers have been doing for their domestic route. What would Japanese (and myself) passengers say if their well-being in 14 hours of trans-Pacific flight are in the hands of Oba-san (old, mean, fat, women) ?

Thanks to Thai women, who are highly skilled in the services industry. They came in to fill the gap. They trained themselves Japanese language, perfected their attitude on serving customers, and then they flew.

Similar story is also happening in the US' health care industry where nurses from the Philippines are filling in the gap. Not only they work for hospitals, but they also work in retirement houses, taking care the elderly.

Indonesia also supplies thousands of maids to countries where working as servants are not an attractive job. Also, since more than ten years ago Indonesian musicians have been performing in bands in clubs in Brunei and the Middle East.

Thus, in services, global factor mobility has started in what the WTO classified as Mode 3 of labor movement across border. The key to sucessfully joining the movement is constantly arming our labor with skills needed in the services industries.


  1. Sjamsu,
    interesting observation!
    There is an interesting woman at UC Davis that did a lot of research on these "Southeast Asian care chains". I think she's a Philippino and her name is Rhacel Salazar Parreñas (http://asa.ucdavis.edu/parrenas/)

    I have made quite a few trips from Jakarta to Kuwait or Dubai and this care chain was always very visible in those airplanes with hundreds of Indonesian girls going to Qatar, Kuwait, etc. (and I must admit I felt rather sorry for them).

  2. Yet another sign of globalization in the service sector (from football365.com):
    "..A mere glimpse at tonight's teamsheets suggests the globalisation of football is almost complete. The inclusion of Jonathan Woodgate and David Beckham in Real Madrid's side means the Spanish outfit have more English representatives than Arsenal . Theo Walcott is the only man, or should I say boy, who hails from England and he must make do with a place on the bench. The Gunners' United Nations-style team includes no fewer than eight nationalities with France and the Ivory Coast best represented. Likewise Real Madrid's players are hardly likely to be sporting tatoos of King Juan Carlos I, with just three Spaniards in the starting XI. There are five Brazilians on the pitch from the start, further proof if it's needed, that Brazil continues to produce the finest footballers on earth...."