Good Jobs

Here is David Pogue on the everlasting Foxconn saga. He is writing on the side of “our definition of sweat shops is a bit weird in the context of China”. Here is a salient quote:

The second enlightening twist, for me, was a note sent to me from a young man, born in China and now attending an American university.

My aunt worked several years in what Americans call “sweat shops.” It was hard work. Long hours, “small” wage, “poor” working conditions. Do you know what my aunt did before she worked in one of these factories? She was a prostitute.

And the article goes on with lots of interesting anecdotes. It’s good for my bias and all, so I post it here.

But the thing that intrigues me is a contradiction (hypocrisy?) in the way many in our culture look at manufacturing. We revere it, of course, but why? These don’t look like the kind of jobs that I want my kids to have.

It didn’t look like a sweatshop, frankly. The assembly-line work was certainly mind-numbingly repetitive — one woman files the burrs off the iPad’s Apple-logo hole 6,000 times a day — but that’s the nature of assembly-line work. Meanwhile, this factory was clean and modern.

More tellingly, the broadcast showed 3,000 young Chinese workers lining up at the gates for Foxconn’s Monday morning recruiting session.

Now, these workers know about the 2010 Foxconn suicides. They know that the starting salary is $2 an hour (plus benefits, and no payroll taxes). They know they’ll have 12-hour shifts, with two hourlong breaks. They know that workers sleep in a tiny dorm (six or eight to a room) for $17 a month.

And yet here they are, lining up to work! Apparently, even those conditions, so abhorrent to us, are actually better than these workers’ alternatives: backbreaking rural farm work that doesn’t prepare them to move up the work force food chain.

Isn’t a rich society one that is free from such toil? I still don’t really ‘get’ the manufacturing fetish.

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