We’ve all heard stories about cheap Chinese labor that aren’t always pleasant to the ears. Almost everything sold globally is made in China. China has one of the cheapest labor/ manpower in the market, which is why multinational companies prefer doing business in this part of the globe because they get to save lots of money in the process. But how well do we really know about what’s going on in many of these Chinese factories? Don’t workers get paid right and do they really work under extreme and often unsafe working conditions?
Wherever you are in the world, it is hard to compete with Chinese labor and companies know that. Name any popular brand you know and they likely have an offshore office or factory in China to help them meet production demands. For the average Chinese person, these factories provide opportunities for them to earn some money to provide for their own families, obtain basic rights and send their kids to school. And no matter how difficult working conditions are, most Chinese don’t complain about it and just do their jobs to the best that they can.
Inside the sweatshops, toys such as Thomas the Tank, Barbie, DJ Suki Trolls, Hello Kitty, Hot Wheels and Disney princesses can be seen on conveyor belts.
Workers in the assembly department have a target goal of 4,000 toys a day, often without a break.
The April and September investigation also found that three of the four factories only paid their workers about $300/month, while others were paid $400/month.
Employees can only work a maximum of eight hours a day, but can sometimes do no more than 36 hours of overtime per month.
“We found that the average working hours in these four factories was 11 hours a day, with more than 50 overtime hours a month, and at half of the factories, overtime hours had reached 100 hours,” the Chinese Labor Watch report read. “Moreover, the extremely high production requirements left workers with barely any time to rest. During the 11 hours that workers put in within a day, all they had was a 40 to 60 minute lunch break.”
The workers live in filthy, unsanitary or hazardous conditions, with the floor covered by electrical wires, and about 14 people sharing a shower and toilet.
There is one cafeteria where workers can purchase food that isn’t considered nutritious.
“We can’t tolerate that children’s dreams are based on workers’ nightmares. Any toy that is manufactured in China is a process where workers’ rights have been infringed upon,” the report said.
“Workers in toy factories face heavy workloads every day, but only earn an extremely low wage. They have children as well,” it read. “But after years of separation, when the workers finally return home with various illness or occupational injuries, who will protect the dream of their children?”
It’s true that many Chinese workers are still abused by their employers and don’t get proper remuneration for the services they render. However, things are improving in some factories and working conditions are better now that in did before. We can still hear the occasional horror stories but things are gradually changing. Meanwhile, other factors affect the overall work climate in China. This nation may have over a billion in population but many are aging and gaining affluence, which has a big impact on the work force in general.
It might be hard to imagine a worker shortage with nearly 1.35 billion people, but with an aging population and rising affluence, China‘s longstanding edge on inexpensive labor costs is starting to slip.
And most likely Chinese labor won’t come in cheap anymore.
Demographics are driving the trend.
China’s one-child policy — launched as a population-control measure in 1979 and phased out starting in 2015 — has left immense gaps in the country’s age mix and a graying, shrinking and increasingly choosy workforce. As average incomes rise, Wong said, many are often passing over factory work.
In any nation, there will always be cases of abuse in the workplace. It is up to the worker to stand up for themselves and protect their rights with or without the help of the government. Companies will often choose profit over everything else. So, it is not surprising to see them compromise other aspects of production and manpower just to save more money and grow their income. When that happens, it’s time you go looking for a new job in a company that won’t compromise the life, health, and safety of their workers.
With increasing globalization and the rise of social media, it is more convenient than ever to expose inhumane working conditions so the authorities are made aware of such practices. As the income of the average person also increases comes more opportunities for livelihood for those individuals who no longer want to settle with a low-paying factory job. China is not an exception to all these things no matter how much the government tries to restrict the citizen’s access to the web. And it is only the right thing to do that many companies are cleaning up their ranks and improving working conditions in most Chinese factories because all eyes are on them now.