I was saddened today by an article in the paper about suicides in a Chinese factory complex. The workers, who also live in the factory compound, work 12 hour days, 6 days a week. They are not allowed to talk at work and 80% are standing during their entire shift. Toilet breaks are scheduled every 2 hours and they are regularly yelled at if they slow down.
Many of the workers are poorly educated and come from rural areas. Their pay is so low that they can’t afford to send money back home. The company in question supplies i-technology for Apple, Dell and other technology companies. The owner of the factory is a billionaire from Taipei whose success relies on a low paid workforce capable of producing quality output.
This company is not unique in China as many industries supplying western products are equally reliant on a low paid workforce to be competitive. Western consumers are enjoying low prices on many consumer goods due to the conditions in these factories. Many are concerned at the situation, but are we willing to pay more to see the conditions of these workers improved?
It seems the big companies are not prepared to lower their profit margins, so it may be up to consumers to demand changes to these practices knowing that it will have an effect on pricing. The goal shouldn’t be the closure of these factories. The objective must be an improvement in working and living conditions of workers, this demanded with the expectation that prices will increase.
If all i-tech companies are prepared to ensure decent conditions for the workers of their suppliers, their competitiveness should remain relative. Ultimately, the consumer will pay more for goods. An outcome that is however, more palatable than knowing that those who manufactured our “toys” were treated in an inhuman manner, as is the case at present.