Tuesday, March 30, 2010

China’s Slave Labor Toy Factories and Globalization

In Mardi Gras: Made in China, we have witnessed the extremely terrible working environment of bead industry. However in the film, the manager of the factory, Roger, kept reiterating that his employees had holidays and they could even play basketball in the spare time. These statements seem ridiculous to us since we know that workers have little time for entertainment. Then, why could Roger declare with confidence that his employees were enjoying their works? The answer: his factory already treats workers much better than majority of factories.

Santa’s workshop—Inside China’s Slave Labor Toy Factories gives us a precious perspective on factory workers’ workplace environment in China. In the video, the workers told the interviewer that they usually had to work 14 hours a day, 7 days a week. There was no minimum wage—the more you work, the more you get. If you work only the normal shifts of 8 hours, you could only get ¥200,or $30 each month, which is even less than the social security aid in major cities. Therefore these workers had to work overtime “voluntarily” so as to earn enough money to make a living. Besides low wages, the workers suffer from unbearable hot environment at workplace. In the video, the narrator claimed that it was “difficult to breath” in the factory. There are also safety issues in the factories. In spite of its obvious delinquencies, the factory was seen to abide the ethic code by its customers every time they visited. In addition, there was no worker’s union in the factory to help workers strife for their rights. The commonly existence of this kind of factory in China certainly made Roger believe that he has done his best for the welfare of his workers.While workers in Roger's factory are essential parts of Mardi Gras, they do not enjoy being that particular part of the festival.

On the other hand, the factory in this video has its own difficulty: customers always want to get goods in a very short period, which could only be achieved with overtime working. To fulfill the requirement so that they can continue to get contracts, factories have to encourage their workers to work overtime to accomplish the task. Had the customers grant longer production period, the overtime could be largely avoided.

The video also inspires us to reassess the cost of globalization which was mentioned in our discussion. It is true that globalization makes goods cheaper. But the cost to the development country is substantial. The factories, committed to finish tasks on time to win future contracts, force their workers to work overtime by setting low wages for regular work time. Also as a result, the pollution to the local environment is conspicuous as mentioned in the video. In short, the industry chose developing countries to maximize profit. However, the industry takes its toll on the workers and on the environment in developing countries.

Link to the video:

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