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Bloomberg, a pro business publication, writes an article defending the cheapest place business can get its products made. Is that any sort of surprise? Lets face it, it must be annoying for businesses who want to make competitive products at the cheapest place to get that done, that Foxconn is derided as some sort of slave labour camp. So is it any surprise that we now get a "campaign" to reposition Foxconn to make it more acceptable to use?

Now, fair enough that Bloomberg champions the needs of big business, and fair enough that big business wants and need to use these places to build their products. But that does not mean that there is no agenda here. There might not be, but there is certainly a sniff of re-branding going on here.

All Im saying is there is good grounds to be sceptical at the motivation here.

Actually Bloomberg is notable that it's reporting division has uncovered a number of major labour abuse stories:

Most significantly it's 2006 cover story on the use of South American slave labour by car companies:


And more recently on Victoria Secret's use of child labour:


Only last month they ran this story about slavery in the pipeline of American seafood:


Nice ad hominem, but you're ignoring that the other side has just as much motivation to stretch the truth. As this article points out, sensational "sweatshop" smear stories sell, and if anyone thought that the media was above lying about this in their quest for eyeballs, Daisey proved them wrong.

That's a bit of a false dichotomy isn't it? Just because he criticises this particular view doesn't mean he condones or defends the other side or their apparent 'truth stretching'. It's also derailing. 'We can't criticise this article unless we address X, Y and Z as well'.

It's not a valid criticism, it's pure ad hominem.

The BusinessWeek feature on Foxconn was written before Bloomberg bought the magazine.

the cheapest place business can get its products made




Cost of labor per hour: $1.27

Nature of outsourcing: general manufacturing, electronic assembly and parts manufacturing, apparel (shoes, socks and clothing)

Just ignoring for a moment that you've linked to a four year old article whose lack of a tabulated summary of its data borders sociopathic...

The same article says the cost of labour in Bangladesh is: $0.23... I suspect there's lower to be found for those willing to keep the clicking.

From the Bangladesh slide:

Nature of outsourcing: significant college graduate pool, beginning IT services

There's more than enough ground to be skeptical. Most of it reads like a job interviewer's contrived response to "What are your 3 biggest weaknesses?"

"The biggest gripe, which surprised us somewhat, is that they don’t get enough overtime. They wanted to work more, to get more money." This, the biggest gripe, at a place that had to deploy suicide nets around the building perimeters. I can't think of a more patronizing way to write this article.

I, personally, don't know what goes on at Foxconn. But the chance at holding accountable those who enable injustice was lost the day the US bank representative stood proudly in front of Congress and announced "We're too big to fail."; knowing that any backlash would be brief and easily defeated. At that moment it became clear to me that propaganda, which many thought the internet would disable, is more powerful than ever.

Disinformation has far greater utility than information.

Suicide rates at Foxconn are about what you'd expect for a place with that population; the rate is less than the US. (Although that's not saying much.)

There's some caution needed though. Most workers are female which is traditionally higher for attempted but lower for completed suicide, and they don't have as many readily accessible means. (EG, American young men have access to guns.)

The reporters say they spoke to people, freely, and Foxconn didn't know who they spoke to. The reporters seem remarkably ignorant about the fears people have about speaking out when living in an oppressive regime. (China probably executes more people than any other country; there are over 50 crimes that carry the death penalty; some criminals are interviewed for tv programmes before they are executed).

There are a lot of problems at Chinese factories. The fact that poor peasants consider factory work to be better than their regular life just shows how bad life in China is for poor people.

My history might be a bit shaky, but people moving into cities to work in factories sounds quite similar to Britain during their industrial revolution. Though they had a whole other set of problems (mainly dealing with sanitation AFAIK).

China still has growing pains that it needs to work through.

Yes. Poor people migrate to where they think the work is. They're often exploited. Sometimes they're exploited by criminal gangs. Sometimes, if they're lucky, they'll get a low-paid job with excessive hours and poor conditions.


Note that Apple is demanding that Foxconn complies with Apple's policy for overtime - that workers earning about $18 per day must not work more than 60 hours a week. Unless it's an emergency. Or an unusual situation.

It's unfortunate that the concentration is almost entirely on Foxconn, because there are worse factories in China.

It's not actually unreasonable to think that there are factory workers who want more OT. I can find you plenty such to talk to here in the US (I'm the computer guy, but I know plenty of actual factory workers). Just don't ask them during a 60-hour week how they feel about it.

The suicide thing is probably bogus, though it would depend on who is collecting the stats on that and how. It seems too good and that's what gives me pause. If they're being graded on that now, they have incentive to under-report it. I'm not sure if we'll ever know the truth, though.

For example, I'm reminded of one incident I saw where they gave out awards for a "perfect" day. In truth, that shift was new. They didn't know how to reject defective products, so they didn't. Oops.

They found out, but they never bothered to take the award plaque off of the trophy wall. It sits there to this day, unbeaten.

I recently finished Peter Hessler's book Country Driving (all of his three China books are excellent, by the way). Workers wanting more OT (and more guaranteed hours in general) is a common refrain in the third of the book which deals with the emerging factory towns in Wenzhou province. Working at the smaller factories entails unsteady, unpredictable hours. Another major concern for workers is not working under too dangerous conditions, represented in the book by fake leather factories, which use chemicals with foul, dangerous fumes in their manufacturing process. Taking everything into account, I imagine a place like Foxconn must look attractive compared to most of the ready alternatives.

There's a suicide barrier on the Aurora Bridge in Seattle. I guess that means Seattleites are all mistreated by their employers as well? Don't buy anything from Amazon or drink Starbucks!

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