Every day, the news reminds us that the terms making up the title of this book are sadly at odds. We had just sent the manuscript to the publisher, when the European Commission released the findings of its energy sector competition inquiry, concluding that industrial customers and consumers were losing out due to inefficient gas and electricity markets. The report pointed to high levels of market concentration; anti-competitive integration of generation, networks and supply; unequal access to, and insufficient investment in infrastructure, and, possibly, market sharing cartels between operators. Going forward, the Commission intended to prosecute individual cases under EU competition rules and to further liberalize the sector, if necessary against the will of national governments.
At the end of 2006, the average annual salary of a programmer in Hungary ranged from $4,000 to $7,000, in India from $5,900 to $11,000, and in the USA from $60,000 to $80,000. The annual cost of a chip designer in Suzhou (China) was $24,000, i.e. $4,000 less than in Shanghai, $6,000 less than in Bangalore, $276,000 less than in Boston. Business reacts by outsourcing, off-shoring, and relocating production. For recipients, outsourcing provides employment, substitutes for imports and generates export earnings; for outsourcers and importers, like WalMart, contributing nearly one-fifth of China's total export volume, it sustains “every day low prices” to consumers. Still the ILO, WTO, EU, and NAFTA push for internationalizing employment standards and their enforcement through product labeling, trade sanctions and consumer boycotts.