Like every western country in the world, Britain is a top importer of Chinese goods, it is more than likely that the laptop you are working on, the phone you are using to call your friends or the clothes that you wear will have been completely manufactured or components of it will be produced in China. The main reason for this is employees are willing to work long hours for a small wage. For many workers willing to work these hours it is out of necessity, they have no other way of guaranteeing an income for their family. Factories are reliable jobs which pay enough to let them live life at a better standard than life on the street or in the country where food and money are scarce. They may also get a chance to learn at the same time as working which is very important to the youth of China, but this may only be available in very high standard factory’s.
Items which are manufactured in China range from, toasters, Mac books, Ipods, clothing and toys. The list is endless! Even though so many things are labelled as MADE IN CHINA, it is not often that people really realise where their items are from. It is almost like the MADE IN CHINA logo is so common that we have started to ignore or not notice what is says anymore. Just like when you see the washing instructions on your label. You never really read them and take them on unless you need to know what it says. I myself was a bit like this. I remember as a child being interested in why things were made so far away and thought it was pretty cool to have something from an exotic country. I always had the picture in my head of people happily making these things with their families, enjoying the sunshine and just taking it easy.
Over the years you soon get to know the reality of what is going on, but still some people have the ideological idea that people who make these products are happy and are just working the same hours and have the same work load as people in Britian. When I watched the video ” Factory City” I thought this must be a pretty special factory to work in. I expected so much worse from working, living and eating conditions. For some reason I thought it would be a dark shed with people coughing, smoking, Children and old people working and looking tired, even people risking their lives to get job complete. In the video the work shops were clean, safety equipment was given, beds were provided, the age of people were 16-30 and they all looked quite healthy. To me if you are making a living and providing for your family but not risking your health then it must be a good job. I know their are probably worse factories out their but it is a better life than living on the streets or trying to scrape money together every month. The long hours I think would be the worse part of the job, never having any spare time and knowing you will probably be working their 7 days a week and without sufficient sleep.
Our group wanted to find out the opinions of the Dundee consumers . Whether they knew where their products were manufactured or not. We came up with a set of questions to ask people and recorded the answers.
1) Do you have any idea where the majority of your products are produced?
2) Are you willing to pay a bit more money for clothes if you knew they were made in better conditions?
3) Do you own any Apple products and/or know where they were manufactured?
Female – 17 years old
1)Not a clue
Female – 69 years old
1) Assumed China.
2) Would have been willing to pay more for certain products if they were produced more fairly and working conditions were better.
3) Didn’t own any Apple products. Had just bought a HP computer and was happy with it. Assumed the parts were made abroad.
Male – 22 years old – Apple Shop Worker
1) Yes. Worked in the Apple shop so knew quite a lot about where the components were built and how poor the conditions of the workers are.
2) Would definitely pay more for the product, even if built in the west and cost more. He stated that the love for the product was the main reason, and if working conditions were improved or even moved to the west, he would still buy them.
3)Yes. Pretty much owns every Apple product known on Earth. Knows they are built in factories in China.
Female – 23 years old – Works in SuperDry
1) Didn’t really know if she could tell us where the clothes were made. We stated that it says on the label. This lass was being an awkward kitten!
2) I asked her if she were to have the choice of buying the same polo shirt, one made in China and one made in America, would she pay more for the one that was made with better working conditions and fairer pay. She eventually stated that she would, after discussing she had done a college course in fashion.
3) She didn’t own any Apple products, but assumed they were made in Asia somewhere.
People are pretty clued up on where their products are made and would not mind paying a little more for them to be manufactured in factories with better working conditions. One lady that we interviewed said she wouldn’t mind paying more money for the same product because you are buying the companies traits in the product so it doesn’t matter how much it is. For example people buy Ipods made from Apple because they know they are reliable, aesthetically pleasing, durable and that software,apps and accessories are available throughout the world. So if the price of the ipod went up people would still buy ipods because of all the positive things the company have to back them up, even if their was a cheaper alternative available. This is theory of how it could work but whether people are telling the truth is not clear.
We also looked around clothing stores to see if any of their pieces were made in China. First stop was TOPMAN. I was expecting most clothes to be made in one country but was not expecting what I found. I picked up a pair of Jeans they were made in Egypt, I thought alright not so bad but I started to pick up more and their were MADE IN labels from; Turkey, Italy, Malaysia, China and India. I sort of went on a label checking spree around the shop wondering if I would find anymore foreign names! Luckily I didn’t. When you start to analyse something so closely you know you knew that clothes were made in different countries and shipped in to Britain, But taking a closer look just gives you a shock and your eyes are opened to the fact that clothes which are sold in Shops like Superdry ( which was another clothing shop we looked at) cost thrupence to make due to cheap materials and labour are sold in reputable british shops for people to buy at highly marked up prices. One not so special Jumper from Superdry which was made in China was for sale at £109. So they are making a huge profit while workers are being given 40 pence an hour to make the clothes. They will be probably be getting nothing more tan 1p from that piece of clothing.
It is easy enough to say that companies should put their prices up and give these factories more money but if their is such a happy cycle going on, would places like Apple and TOPSHOP really be happy to cut their earnings? People just don’t care enough to fight for what is right if there getting a good bargain. Of course people who we stopped in the street are going to say they would be more than happy to pay a bit extra for ethical products, who wouldn’t if you are questioned in front of people. I think secretly we really just don’t care, these countries are too far away and the deals we are getting are just too good.
We also have to ask questions about the cons of factories getting more money. Would they employ people or buy in machines to make things instead. If these people didn’t have their factory jobs how would they provide for their families? They can’t protest or strike because their are so many other people who would gladly step in their shoes! The wouldn’t be able to get a more skilled job as most of them cannot afford education and have no employability. These factories are not breaking any laws and are giving people a chance to earn money and provide for their families. Of course they would love to have a easy job with high pay but they are making the best of their circumstances and putting their families well being at the forefront of their own.