The Risk Implications of Globalisation: An Exploratory Analysis of 105 Major Industrial Incidents (1971–2010)

Matthias Beck

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This paper revisits work on the socio-political amplification of risk, which predicts that those living in developing countries are exposed to greater risk than residents of developed nations. This prediction contrasts with the neoliberal expectation that market driven improvements in working conditions within industrialising/developing nations will lead to global convergence of hazard exposure levels. It also contradicts the assumption of risk society theorists that there will be an ubiquitous increase in risk exposure across the globe, which will primarily affect technically more advanced countries. Reviewing qualitative evidence on the impact of structural adjustment reforms in industrialising countries, the export of waste and hazardous waste recycling to these countries and new patterns of domestic industrialisation, the paper suggests that workers in industrialising countries continue to face far greater levels of hazard exposure than those of developed countries. This view is confirmed when a data set including 105 major multi-fatality industrial disasters from 1971 to 2000 is examined. The paper concludes that there is empirical support for the predictions of socio-political amplification of risk theory, which finds clear expression in the data in a consistent pattern of significantly greater fatality rates per industrial incident in industrialising/developing countries.
Original languageEnglish
Article number309
Number of pages21
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 10 Mar 2016


  • industrial incidents; gobalisation; socio-political amplification of risk; risk

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