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Signs of Changes Taking Hold in Electronics Factories in China (nytimes.com)
34 points by dekayed 1758 days ago | hide | past | web | 14 comments | favorite

Henry Ford was the Foxconn of his day. When the average turnover at his factories dropped to 9 months because people would leave over low pay and bad work conditions to go work at another automaker, he implemented the $5 day. It roughly doubled pay for the workers at the time but it came with a cost. The workers had to have their home life inspected, couldn't be drunks, drug users or abusive to their spouses, their kids had to be in school - essentially he used the wage increase to give license to tighter screening of employees lives both at work and home.

It worked, productivity went up, lots of free press, and sales went up. The common belief was the raise was about the worker being able to buy his own car, but there was more to the story. I recommend "Wheels for the World" as an excellent book about this. http://www.amazon.com/Wheels-World-Company-Century-Progress/...

Much like the 19th century Quaker model in the UK, as with worker villages like Port Sunlight, although in this case the workers did not actually get the extra money...

Lever's aims were "to socialise and Christianise business relations and get back to that close family brotherhood that existed in the good old days of hand labour." He claimed that Port Sunlight was an exercise in profit sharing, but rather than share profits directly, he invested them in the village. He said, "It would not do you much good if you send it down your throats in the form of bottles of whisky, bags of sweets, or fat geese at Christmas. On the other hand, if you leave the money with me, I shall use it to provide for you everything that makes life pleasant – nice houses, comfortable homes, and healthy recreation."


It was progressive compared to the attitudes of a century earlier:

"Poverty ... is a most necessary and indispensable ingredient in society, without which nations and communities could not exist in a state of civilisation. It is the lot of man – it is the source of wealth, since without poverty there would be no labour, and without labour there could be no riches, no refinement, no comfort, and no benefit to those who may be possessed of wealth." — Patrick Colquhoun, 1806

Also, there was a simpler argument against a decent wage: If you give Those Sorts any more than the bare minimum needed to keep body and soul together, they'll just squander it on loose women, drink, and riotous behavior, leading to the decay of the family and the end of our Christian society. Fighting for the eight-hour workday amounted to fighting against this perception.

> The eight-hour day, another said, would encourage "loafing and gambling, rioting, debauchery, and drunkenness."


I.E "i'm rich because you are poorer than me". It's not about wealth , it is about human nature , domination and power. There is enough wealth in this world for the rich to be still filthy rich and the poor to live a decent life and have an education. But wealth is a mean of domination, by keeping people poor you can make them desperate and enslave them.

This is great news, and is what progress looks like.

Even if you look back towards the start of these factories, the jobs they have been offering are better than subsistence farming. They're not pleasant by Western standards, and they're not something you'd want people to have to do, but they are progress. That's why foxconn has no trouble finding staff.

Now, as these industries have been built where seeing standards improve. This is progress, and this is capitalism lifting hundreds of thousands (if not millions) out of poverty.


"In 1990, the UN announced Millennium Development Goals, the first of which was to halve the number of people in extreme poverty by 2015. It emerged this year that the target was met in 2008. Yet the achievement did not merit an official announcement, presumably because it was not achieved by any government scheme but by the pace of global capitalism."

For some, this is a very uncomfortable fact.

That's because some draw the conclusion that capitalism does not exist with a progressive tax rate, environmental laws, unions, or universal health care. It's a ridiculous proposition, but that's what some people believe.

For comparison: http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/02/mac-mcclelland-f...:

"Even more than you are hurting the company, a voice-over intones as animated people do things like accidentally oversleep, you are hurting yourself when you are late because you will be penalized on a point system, and when you get too many points, you're fired—unless you're late at any point during your first week, in which case you are instantly fired"

*There are transition points in the warehouse floor where the footing is uneven, and people trip and sprain ankles. Give forklifts that are raised up several stories to access products a wide berth: "If a pallet falls on you, you won't be working with us anymore." Watch your fingers around the conveyor belts that run waist-high throughout the entire facility. People lose fingers."

10+hour shifts, net $60 a day, in the USA.

$60 a day would be a dream wage in China.

Right, but food etc. costs of China would be a dream in the US.

Will be interesting to watch the fallout from these changes.

I don't think it will be perceptible to most people - the cost of goods will rise relative to their usual decline, but it will still be a decline.

The cost of goods might not even rise. Employees who are stressed, overworked and in pain probably have higher defect rates and turnover than employees who are treated more humanely.

From a global economy perspective, once China gets to a certain cost basis places like Vietnam become 'better' places to do your manufacturing. Since the same families that run factories in mainland China often run similar facilities off shore, the growth will start spilling over into the rest of south east Asia in a bigger way.

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