Neoliberal Competitions and Local Advantages: The Case of a Japanese Car Parts Factory in the Small Island Developing State of Sāmoa

Authors: Masami Tsujita Levi*, National University of Samoa
Topics: Development, Pacific Islands, Economic Geography
Keywords: Neoliberal competition, human agency, SIDS, automotive industry
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: Forum Room, Omni, West
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

In 1991, Yazaki Corporation, a Japan-based multinational car parts manufacturer, shifted its labor-intensive factory from Australia to Samoa, a small island developing state in the Pacific in order to reduce production costs and maintain competitiveness in the global automotive markets. Since its establishment, Yazaki Samoa has been the biggest private employer, contributing significantly to the country’s job creation. In 2017, despite the wishes of factory workers and the Samoan government, Yazaki ceased its operation and left Samoa. This closure was a direct impact of Australian government decision to stop subsidizing carmakers in Australia, which led the end of Australia’s car manufacturing industry and the loss of Yazaki Samoa’s clients. The closure of Yazaki Samoa is a classic example of how multinationals in the neoliberal economy exploit workers in developing countries as ‘disposable commodities.’ In such view, low-paid factory workers are seen typically as powerless victims of the global labour regime that undermines their situations and promotes inequality between the core and peripheral countries. This paper moves beyond such views and explores the ways in which Samoan workers used their factory employment to expand freedom in their lives. It argues that less powerful social groups, like factory workers in small developing countries, could exercise their human agency in the world economic system and take advantage of neoliberal competition to expand their life choices. The stories and information that support this study are based primarily on my direct observations while working at this factory as part of management team for six years.

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