"The Chinese government, as a government, and the Chinese people, as a society, are willing to tolerate things we find unacceptable as the price of development."
To the contrary, a look at our own history in the second half of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century tells a different story. The difference is in our case it happened so long ago that none of us remember it. None of us remember the children being herded into mines and factories, the black lungs the coal miners had, the long hours with low wages, the smoke filled skies, etc. I could go on, but I think I made my point.
The type of work the FoxConn workers perform is highly repetitive and most of that can be done by machines. The only reason it is not done by machines is because the labor in China is even cheaper. If the labor cost rises too a point it is no longer cost-effective then we can just build "mega" automated assembly lines. It is, however, bad news for the FoxConn workers because they have no marketable skills other than their youth and perseverance.
I really hope that last comment from bill123 was a joke. A despicable one at that. Here's another way of looking at the end game of the notion that it is perfectly OK for near-slave-labor to persist.
What happens when professional jobs related to tech get outsourced to emerging countries, as is happening more and more, without the emergence of a middle class and a rise in their standard of living, in those countries? Answer: there are no goods jobs left in the US tech industry and the ripple effect is a downward spiral of the US standard of living. Taken to the extreme, if workers in all industries are not entitled to a decent living wage- relative to their country, and all work goes this route, then the standard of living for the world can only go down. Should we all in the US have to move to the lowest cost place on the planet and live a cruel and meaningless existance? Why did we crawl out of the muck of serfdom of the MIddle Ages for, if we all think that is a good idea? Equillibrium is an irrefutable law of nature. If we as humanity do not stand up for decent conditions for life, inevitable reselt of this trend is the decimation of the middle class and a return to serfdom. But wait, then the factory closes because there isnot enough nobility class to keep volumes of good shipping out- then the workers and cast into the "outer spaces" to fend for themselves off the land that has not been consumed. I am personally counting on the continual pursuit of a decent standard of living by factory workers and professionals alike, in the emerging world. Because the standard of living, I believe, will equalize across the planet over time and I would rather it be closer to what we enjoy, then what the lowest of the low must endure today. I am convinced our standard of living in the US will go down considerably, but if anyone thinks it is OK for manufacturing factory workers to live like dogs, think about the whether you want your college educated children and grandchildren to have no choice but such a miserable existance, and they have to ask you to move to the encampments for castways in a 3rd world desert because the $100 amonth they can afford to send you from their engineering camp in the only countries in Asia employing anyone, is not enough to sustain you in even a tent in the western US deserts. Just saying.
Just today from the AP: "TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) -- Recent wage hikes in China could force Taiwanese electronics firms operating there to relocate to other Asian countries, a Taiwanese industry leader has said.
Chairman Arthur Chiao of the Taiwan Electronics and Electrical Appliances Association said his group is assisting China-based Taiwanese companies to seek out new manufacturing sites in India, Indonesia and Vietnam in the wake of steadily rising labor costs on the mainland."
Ah, yes. The Law of Unintended Consequences.
The West should have never abolished and banned the practice of slavery or serfdom. Because of that "idealistic", moral decision, we consumers have been overpaying for our goods/foods ever since. (Slavery simply shift to low cost Africa and Asia anyway. If they didn't like it, they could have ran away or not eat).
We must be realistic and let "dog eat dog" morality bloom again in the globalized world so that materialistic goods can be produced at the cheapest cost for the corpulent masses.
The oppressed workers in foreign countries can protest against their corrupt gov's, as long as my iPad toys are cheap, i don't mind.
but they'd better not demand better wages and steal my hard-earned money.
Manufacture things on a more human scale? This sounds like airy fairy leftism to me. Economies of scale means typically the bigger the plant's output the lower the per unit cost, which means we save money. Things will only continue to grow in scale as we embark on ever grander projects. This is the 21st century, deal with it.
"Rather than building megafactories that require dormitories, Foxconn, with the government's help, could have built hundreds of factories in the different regions where workers are available, to let them live at home and commute."
Uh-huh. And if Foxconn were the *only* manufacturer of stuff like this in China, it might have been possible. They aren't.
More and more is being made in China because they are the low cost producer. FoxConn may be the biggest, but it's not alone in that space, and competes with others. The OEMs who use FoxConn manufactured components purchase on price. If another Chinese manufacturer can provide equivalent parts at equivalent quality and a lower price, guess who'll make the sale? Doing what you suggest would have short term benefits for Foxconn employees, but long term, it would simply make Foxconn uncompetitive and put them out of business. Then what happens to their workforce?
*You* might be willing to pay more for products manufactured in conditions you think proper. The rest of the world won't.
And there are fundamental underlying differences in Chinese culture versus ours. We think of ourselves as individuals. The critical social unit in China is the *family*. Things will be seen as in the interests of the family. You will find many cases where by our standards, the individual doesn't *matter*. The family is important. The individual is not.
China is a still largely agrarian society trying to industrialize as rapidly as possible. There is explosive growth in cities as people migrate to try to find factory jobs, because it simply pays a lot better than working on the farm.
The Chinese government, as a government, and the Chinese people, as a society, are willing to tolerate things we find unacceptable as the price of development.
We must?? Sorry to be a realist, but then the low-cost manufacturing will move to the next low-cost labor market. Welcome to globalization. What are you going to do? Insist that you pay more for the products? How do enforce your standards on the people of sovereign nations? We already get demonized for our imperialist actions. That's sure to endear yourself to these other countries. While your intentions appear to be noble on the surface, they are globally naive. Have you ever lived anywhere else in the world? I spent time in both Republic of Korea and Afghanistan. Our standards are not their standards. Our ways of doing things do not necessarily translate well to other cultures. Get real dude.