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Chinese Factory Workers & The Cost of Electrical Goods

 
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Fri 11 Jun, 2010 06:21 am
You might have noticed stories about the suicide rate in the Taiwan factory that turns out Apple's amazing new iPad. Apparently there have been 11 suicides in this factory in the last 12 months, due to the harsh working conditions - 12 hour shifts, very strict rules about toilet breaks and talking to other workers, and (by US standards) dreadful wages, amounting to a few hundred dollars per month.

Following the last of the suicides - mainly workers throwing themselves out of windows - the company concerned recently doubled wages, and then raised them again a couple of days later.

Now I am probably not alone in thinking that for the last 2o years or so, electrical goods - LCD televisions, laptop computers, mobile phones, etc - seem remarkably cheap. Seems almost too good to be true. Well - maybe it is. Maybe this is the hidden cost of the current social order, what with all the jobs leaving America and Europe and going to China, and the massive availability of cheap electrical goods. It is a good thing insofar as everyone likes a bargain. But is it a real economy? Do you think that we have been paying too little for this stuff, and this is actually artificial? If these plants loosen up conditions and raise pay so that the workforce are not being treated like the equivalent of farmed cattle, will you be willing to pay a lot more for your new iGadget? Camera? Television?

The Chinese masses are moving, in massive numbers, from traditional agrarian lifestyles to seek employment in the new manufacturing centres, the 'factories to the world'. But if the wages go up to a point where they are not throwing themselves out of windows any more, maybe an iGadget will cost $800 instead of $400.

Will you still buy one?
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Type: Discussion • Score: 2 • Views: 2,265 • Replies: 13
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hawkeye10
 
  1  
Reply Fri 11 Jun, 2010 06:29 am
@jeeprs,
Asian production costs are going up. We might still be able to move to Africa, though Africa seems like a lost cause. Probably the gig of super cheap production is up, it was always going to be a matter of time before the global economy lost the ability to exploit cheap labor.

This does not mean that America or Europe are going to get the jobs back though. Now we have lost the good jobs, and lost the cheap crap that was supposed to be the benefit of giving up those good jobs.

Are we having fun yet?
0 Replies
 
Green Witch
 
  1  
Reply Fri 11 Jun, 2010 06:37 am
Wealthier countries have long benefited from exploitation of poorer countries. It's certainly not just electronics, but also necessities like food and clothing. Americans pay a lower percentage of their income for such items than we did 40 years ago and it's due to the fact some people are so desperate for a bowl of rice or beans that they will toil in terrible conditions with poor wages to survive. It's a choice we have made and in the process we have created an economic system that not only hurts the world, but hurts ourselves. The "Walmart Economic Model" that we have chosen with our wallets has destroyed a once thriving middle class in America and created a world economy that wastes natural resources, poisons the environment and has turned people with few other choices into drones that supply us with excessive trinkets and toys. I predict it's all going to implode and it will not be pretty for anyone.
0 Replies
 
xris
 
  1  
Reply Fri 11 Jun, 2010 06:48 am
It happened in Europe, we in the UK suffered from this capitalist notion of profits without concern. The legislation that we in west now experience has caused the export of cheap labour. It needs international agreement, that serves all workers. It benefits everyone and if certain goods increase in price, so be it. Consumption in the amount we see now cant be maintained for ever, no matter how much or who manufactures them.
hawkeye10
 
  1  
Reply Fri 11 Jun, 2010 06:55 am
@xris,
Quote:
Consumption in the amount we see now cant be maintained for ever, no matter how much or who manufactures them.
Most of us know that we need to move to a low consumption model, the problem is that capitalism does not support such an endeavor.
Green Witch
 
  1  
Reply Fri 11 Jun, 2010 07:15 am
@hawkeye10,
Well, maybe it's time we changed the system. Countries like Denmark are doing a pretty good job of balancing quality of life with quantity of material goods and services. We don't have to behave like pigs at a trough to be happy and healthy. We need to develop a sustainable system that is in harmony with the limits of the earth instead of trying to model our economic system on the ever expanding example of the universe.
hawkeye10
 
  1  
Reply Fri 11 Jun, 2010 07:42 am
@Green Witch,
Quote:
Countries like Denmark are doing a pretty good job of balancing quality of life with quantity of material goods and services
it looks to me that Denmark supports their welfare state on exporting stuff for other people to consume...this does not demonstrate a successful low consumption model.
Green Witch
 
  1  
Reply Fri 11 Jun, 2010 07:59 am
@hawkeye10,
I don't think their butter cookies are footing the bills. They mostly support it with very high taxes. The Danes complain about their taxes but prefer to pay over losing social benefits - at least for now. It will be an interesting model to watch.
0 Replies
 
xris
 
  1  
Reply Fri 11 Jun, 2010 09:44 am
It appears quantity rather than quality appears to be part of the problem . Antique electrical goods are now three years old . The consumers world is fed with shoddy goods that are better thrown away than repaired. We are induced to buy and feel insecure without the latest model being displayed for our visitors to either feel themselves in need of, or superior because they have a slightly better model. We all need to re evaluate our values and not be seduced by the modern advertising techniques.

hawkeye10
 
  1  
Reply Fri 11 Jun, 2010 10:11 am
@xris,
Quote:
It appears quantity rather than quality appears to be part of the problem
We are not materialistic, which is proven by the fact that we don't take care of what we already have. We are driven to acquire, it is built into human greed. The capitalists said that they could harness human greed for the betterment of mankind, but it has not turned out that way. We have turned acquisition
into an addiction, one that destroys our host planet.
0 Replies
 
jeeprs
 
  1  
Reply Fri 11 Jun, 2010 04:53 pm
It will be interesting to see if the world can cope with a greatly increased standard of living for the Chinese labour force. Their contribution has really provided one of the massive free kicks which has been responsible for the economic boom of the last couple of decades, and maybe we have been taking it for granted.

I really hope we are not heading for economic collapse, though. "Painful re-adjustment", yes, "periods of instability", ok, "continuing problems in the world economy" - they are one thing. But collapse is something else. I really hope we don't see that. I take some comfort from the fact that whatever problems become apparent are subject to harsh illumination by the world's media, which will hopefully enable remedies to be found before they all become terminal. But it is going to be a very rocky road for some years yet to come.
0 Replies
 
Robert Gentel
 
  2  
Reply Fri 11 Jun, 2010 04:59 pm
@jeeprs,
I don't know much about this particular case, but my take on it after superficial reading was that they have had a spate of suicides (patterns of which are tragically common) but that the company employs hundreds of thousands (was it 800,000? I don't recall) of people and that their suicide rate is below average.

I think there are truly appalling work environments around and that this one might not have actually been as bad as it has been made out to be.

But to answer your question I'd be fine with having higher priced electronics if that meant that those building them could enjoy better quality of life.
0 Replies
 
jeeprs
 
  1  
Reply Sat 12 Jun, 2010 01:42 am
For anyone who hasn't read about these cases in the media, here is one of the stories about it.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/china-business/7798741/Steve-Jobs-says-Apple-is-all-over-Foxconn-suicides.html
0 Replies
 
dadpad
 
  1  
Reply Sat 12 Jun, 2010 02:14 am
@Green Witch,
Quote:
Well, maybe it's time we changed the system. Countries like Denmark are doing a pretty good job of balancing quality of life with quantity of material goods and services. We don't have to behave like pigs at a trough to be happy and healthy. We need to develop a sustainable system that is in harmony with the limits of the earth instead of trying to model our economic system on the ever expanding example of the universe.

Couldnt have said it better myself
0 Replies
 
 

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