In the wake of the independent investigation on March 29th into China’s Foxconn production facility that provides output for Apple products, an interesting contrast emerged bettween the Chinese work ethic and a growing American trend when it comes to work and pay.
Chinese workers actually demanded more hours to allow for the potential to earn more money while at the same time, American companies have been demanding more hours from their workers for less pay, and little potential for increased income.
“At the Foxconn factory gates, many workers seemed unconvinced that their pay wouldn’t be cut along with their hours. For some Chinese factory workers – who make much of their income from long hours of overtime – the idea of less work for the same pay could take getting used to. “We are worried we will have less money to spend. Of course, if we work less overtime, it would mean less money,” said Wu, a 23-year-old employee from Hunan province in south China. Foxconn said it will reduce working hours to 49 per week, including overtime. “We are here to work and not to play, so our income is very important,” said Chen Yamei, 25, a Foxconn worker from Hunan who said she had worked at the factory for four years.” – Reuters via Zerohedge
In contrast in America, where inflation is climbing much faster than cost of living increases, workers in the US are now being forced to work longer hours at little or no increase in pay because of the wide open climate of high unenployment. Many US workers fear that if they do not capitulate to company demands, then their job security can be put in jeopardy as millions of jobless workers sit outside the economy waiting to take their place.
The findings from the Foxconn investigation also show the cultural divide between how Americans view working conditions, and how citizens in other countries see them. America has historically tried to force our perspecitves on other cultures, such as in Democratizing the world, and through attempted ‘nation building’ when many peoples around the world did not want or understand this concept to being with. The outrage reported over the past several years of Chinese sweatshops, slave labor, and horrid working conditions has primarily been done through the lens of American viewpoints, and not necessarily at the behest of the overseas workers themselves.
Not all Chinese factories are as well facilitated as Foxconn, but not all Chinese workers have issues in their current working structure as portrayed by Americans regarding Chinese labor. Many workers, such as the one intervewed by Reuters, find American interference in their job environments a potential hardship as public opinion here may actually lower his potential for pay out of a skewed viewpoint America tries to impose on China, and other nations.
During the Industrial Revolution, working conditions in America were horrid in many places, and cutting edge in others. Coal miners in Rockefeller mines worked long and dangerous hours for low pay while workers at the Ford automobile plant received $5 a day for their labor. Unions sprung up during this time to dominate the American landscape, but it took improving education and skills before companies learned to recognize the value of skilled labor over the simple drudgery of pick and shovel workers.
The Chinese worker has a much different standard of living and much different view of work ethic than Americans today have, and the interference of our placing our viewpoints and standards on their work environments, rather than focusing on our own growing trends of less jobs, more hours, and less pay, is a detriment to workers in both nations where energies spent will simply divide cultures, and hurt both labor pools.