by Tyler Cowen
on October 11, 2013 at 8:09 am
in Economics |
The photos are here, definitely recommended, scroll down to view, hat tip goes to Robin Grier.
If you think the artwork at the end was the travesty, youuuuuuuuu might be a libertarian.
Yeah, it was only by the very end that I figured out I was supposed to feel bad about something. I’m still not entirely sure what…
I thought it was a little odd that they weren’t smiling, but that could have been cultural. Smiling in pictures is a relatively recent invention.
I’m reminded of a photoessay a few months ago in some mainstream source like the Washington Post – I don’t exactly recall where. It was supposed to show the worldwide horror of child labor, but it was just a bunch of pictures of smiling kids working in their parent’s shops and craft business. There was one picture with 16 year-olds working in a mine, but not some Temple of Doom mine, just a regular open-air industrial facility.
I’m sure terrible things happen in the world, but for me, this just missed the mark. It did not accomplish what it meant to accomplish.
A total fail, smiling lady in photo number #8 could be placed the average Fair Trade Foundation marketing material. Ladies in photos 12 and 13 are simply cute, if you consider that women across the Pacific devote a lot more than 240 dollars per month to have a nice skin and to be as slim as these chinese workers without great results……….shocking, terribly shocking indeed.
@Finch–southeast asians are trained to always smile, even though their facial muscles pull their face (or most of them) into a frown. Just before the Gurkhas pull out a knife that kills you, they are smiling. Google Images if you don’t believe me. It does not mean they are happy.
As for the toy factory, keep in mind toys have lead paint on them (not illegal in many places) so all the workers holding paint brushes have lead in their blood. And that wedding gold ring you wear? If it’s from artesian Au, the workers all have sterility and reproductive / cognitive problems due to the mercury they are using (Google “mad hatter”). Feel better now?
Yes, this confirms various myths I believe and makes me more comfortable with my biases. My cognitive dissonance, over seeing someone who was trying to show evidence of the hardship I’ve been told to expect singularly failing to do so, is beginning to subside. The bad stuff is all there; it’s just invisible. Thanks Ray.
Ummm, they are putting lead on baby duckies and I’m meant to feel bad for the people putting the lead on the baby duckies?
I’d say ‘it’s complicated.’
Dear Asians, I believe in the developmental origins of disease AND am willing to pay an extra 3 cents for my baby duckies.
Are we done?
Ray, you are going to think I’m tossing off flippant one-liners, let me esplain.
I don’t make baby duckies, so I don’t know what kind of paint “you people” are using. So, if you are doing something bad for your, it’s probably way worse for my child. Please stop.
I thought it was a little odd that they weren’t smiling, but that could have been cultural.
Well, it’s a matter of not having much in the way of teeth
Travesty of what? Art?
Do you mean “tragedy”?
I don’t know. They took toys away from kids to make adults feel somehow they already do and probably shouldn’t. Which one do I mean?
Capitalism or communism, life seems to be pretty much the same for most Chinese: many hours of repetitive labor for little reward and cramped, impoverished living conditions. I suppose capitalism provides the promise of a better future more than what they used to have (it certainly wasn’t communism–not sure what to call it), but the real way to make China a better place to me seems to be negative population growth.
Pretty much the same apart from that thing where tens of millions of people starved to death under Communism.
‘Pretty much the same apart from that thing where tens of millions of people starved to death’ – just like the the system before communism. And the one before that, if one makes a distinction between conquerors/reigns of monarchs.
You’re allowed to be an idiot on this website, but please don’t be one in such a blatant manner.
Where was the impoverishment? At least by third world standards. The women seemed well dressed. The mess hall seemed neat.
Doing repetitive work in a well lit factory floor beats the hunger n wetness n disease of subsistence rice farming that their fathers & grandfathers probably did.
This. It is a singularly baffling phenomenon when Westerners deplore factory work and romanticize subsistence farming. Evidently the workers prefer having a disposable income and a modicum of material security to the farm, otherwise they’d still be there.
Yup. If there’s one universal truth across the human universe, it is that subsistence farming sucks, and as soon as humans can get away from it, they do. Western big-city types imagine that all farms are like the nice, green, organic “localvore” places run by friendly people driving VW vans and selling veggies at the “farmers market”.
In real life, they’re old-school nastiness that just about everyone gets away from if they have any opportunity whatsoever to do so.
That was my thought too. The women appeared reasonably fed and clean. They were well shod and clothed. The mess hall was functional, but clean. Several images showed centrally issued safety gear. Maybe readers here have a more realistic understanding of human labour through the ages that your average photojournalist, but I didn’t find anything disturbing.
I’m sure the environment was boring and noisy. But it sure beats the hell out of the agricultural commune and backbreaking labour they would have been working 1-2 generations back. Their children will have office jobs. This is progress.
Shockingly ignorant. Are you playing a semantic game with “most” to elide the fact that hundreds of millions of Chinese have climbed out of poverty?
I’m not sure how I’m supposed to react to many of these pictures. Am I suppoed to imagine white and black and asian American faces doing the same work because then we would have Americans making things again? Should I imagine a robotic production line with like 4 people in there because nobody should be doing this work? Should I imagine shuttered factories because toys are frivolous?
“Should I imagine a robotic production line with like 4 people in there because nobody should be doing this work?”
That is what I was wondering. Doing repetitive work kills the soul – even if they get to listen to podcasts all day while they work. But if they automated the factories these folks wouldn’t have work or shelter. The factory job doesn’t necessarily have to be awful if they let people switch roles every couple of days. They could provide a couple of educational classes throughout the day – it could be pretty decent. But the overlords probably aren’t interested in worker enrichment.
A report from last week from China Labour Watch about poor conditions at Matel’s toy factories: http://chinalaborwatch.org/news/new-446.html Guardian article: http://bit.ly/TYMSFH SACOM is a Hong Kong-based NGO which highlights abusive working conditions in the mainland and fights for labour rights in Chinese factories: http://sacom.hk/
In 2010 the average monthly salary, including overtime, for a migrant worker was CNY1,690 (UK£150 / US$240), insufficient to cover basic needs for workers and their families. In 2009 alone, approximately 1 million workers suffered industrial injuries whilst about 20,000 were victims of occupational disease.
Bad. You’re supposed to feel bad.
$240 a month is $2880 a year. http://www.indexmundi.com/china/gdp_per_capita_(ppp).html says that China’s per capita GDP in 2010 was $7544 based on PPP. So yeah, _migrant workers_ are doing pretty poorly compared to average. Of course, it doesn’t say _why_ they migrated to such poor jobs. My predilections lead me to assume that at least a majority of them took these low paying jobs because the alternative was worse. I also wonder if there isn’t some bait and switch going on, or at least I’m missing a chunk of the story: The series is called “The Real Toy Story,” but the numbers talk about migrant workers, but that’s the _only_ time migrant workers are mentioned. Are we to assume these factories are primarily/only staffed by migrant workers? (That seems pretty reasonable based on what I’ve heard of China, but why am I not told that this is the case? Or did the Imgurian who posted this just not explain that part?)
Is there anywhere in the world where migrant workers do average or better than average?
The thing that stood out to me the most was that they were hand painting the toys. I just assumed that the color was just molded in or decal’d on, and didn’t realize that even Chinese labor was that cheap.
And that link isn’t formatting properly, you’ll need to copy and paste the whole thing, including the .html, to get the page.
Tyler and Bryan are absolutely green with envy.
On the subject of cheap labor, something I’ve probably mentioned before: When I started going to Indonesia in 2000, they had employees operating vending machines at the airport. Combination of cheap labor and recent inflation making the machines a PITA to keep a proper price on, I suppose
Think about all the profits if they just use the “handmade in China” label accompanied by that photo of someone painting the yellow rubber duck by hand. They could sell the very same yellow rubber duck for 10x today’s price.
Of course it doesn’t work that way. It’s only “hand crafted” if an American does it. You simply don’t get quality goods in those conditions like you do when AFL-CIO has a hand in things. You know, like with GM cars. Ahem.
When all iPad’s come with one of these photos as the wallpaper desktop background I’ll start to pay attention to whatever it is the photos and art are trying to convey until then I’ll wonder why they but not I get lunch.
Has anyone really been far even as decided to use even go want to do look more like?
I know all those words, but that sign makes no sense
I like “it’s complicated”, since we are a “don’t buy in China” family but those pictures didn’t disturb me at all. Well, except for the ones at the end, what a waste of doll parts and the time of the people assembling the display (didn’t note the pay and working conditions of those folks, their exposure to toxins — sanding down a toy might not be such a brilliant idea — or how many industrial accidents they had from sharpened rubber ducky edges).
I just read an article were folks slammed on the “Little House on the Prairie” series, how horrific their life was, full of poverty, hardship, and unnecessary risk imposed by a nearly abusive father and an enabling mother.
I’d like to do the Prairie thing, second is the factory thing, worse case scenario for me — total poverty — is Dilbert’s life.
As an American, all I care about is that anyone can aspire to be Pa, Factory Worker, or Dilbert, whatever floats his boat. That’s why we don’t buy China, my understanding is you are legally unable to make most of your own choices. Once the Chinese can choose their own paths as individuals, I’ll be all over that Walmart aisle.
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