Billions of ‘em

Posted: October 12, 2012 in This is the Voice of Lefty Reason

Discussing the Labour Market in class yesterday; the Chinese pupil, freshly arrived in Britain, timidly puts her hand up and says “the reason wages are so low in China is that there are billions of Chinese people…”  Great point, well made I reply.  We then move on to discussing the role of Trade Unions in pay and conditions bargaining.  The same pupil now looks blank; inscrutable if you want the Chinese stereotype.  She again raises her hand and asks “What is a Trade union?”  China’s increasingly dominant position in the global economy is being driven by exploitation of workers and the absence of employee rights, health and safety law and minimum wage rates.  This gives Chinese companies enormous cost-side advantages that we in the West cannot match.   If China follows historical examples its workers will eventually unite and demand basic protection, there will be battles, strikes and even deaths but they will get there.  Of course, this means the West will have to look around for other cheap production sources; India will be next I reckon and the continent of Africa will, once again, eventually become a land of opportunity for the capitalist robber-barons seeking cheap labour.  This “re-colonisation” will not be on Empire-building-national-pride grounds but on the seemingly insatiable desire for profit.  We finished the class with a youtube video showing the working conditions inside FoxCon, the Chinese company that produce hi-tech toys for Apple.  The pupils were genuinely shocked but, by their own admission, not shocked enough to not want the latest iPhone…

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