Joanne White – Group 6
Assignment 4 – Generations
For this assignment I decided to look a bit further into Factory working conditions in China and the effects they have on workers leaving their families behind. Focusing more to the point on why they do it. It seems to be the daughter/son’s responsibility to provide for the family when in poverty, even though the parents do not like to see their children leave. In some cases, it is merely a way of survival.
China believes strongly in respecting your elders, as it is known that the oldest person in the family should receive the most respect and honor, as they pass their wisdom onto the younger generation. The Chinese also highly believe that their ancestors are always looking down on them and their actions, perhaps making them more respectful in a way. Caring for one’s family is one of the most important things in a Chinese person’s life. Retirement homes are highly uncommon and placing your parents into one see’s you being labeled as very uncaring and a bad son/daughter. Abandoning your family is one of the most dishonorable things you could do. Even with such degenerative illnesses e.g. Dementia, most people would rather hire a carer than leave a family member alone. Taking care of an ill parent is all the children’s responsibility and those who do not contribute are almost disowned from the family all together.
“According to culture and tradition, children have responsibility for the older members in the family. The word care here means that you as a child have to personally take care of your parents and not let the nurse in the nursing home take care of them. So, it is very common to see a grown adult living with his/her family.”
Parents were cared for by all of their numerous offspring who relied on one another to work as part of a team but now China’s “one-child” policy is in order, social attitudes of China are changing.
“A family must have a son. Min’s mother had four girls before finally giving birth to a boy; in those early years of the government policy limiting families to one child, enforcement was lax in much of the countryside. But five children would bring heavy financial burdens as the economy opened up in the 1980s and the cost of living rose. As the second- oldest child, Min would bear many of those burdens”.
Factory Girls – Leslie T. Chang
Therefore children of a family in poverty feel it is their responsibility to migrate to the city to work endless hours at a mass producing factory, lifting both themselves and their family normally still back in a rural area out of poverty. You hear a lot of horror stories from workers of these factories but the colleagues are still willing to put themselves through it to make their family proud.
I watched two short documentaries called “Santa’s Workshop” and “A dollar a day: Made in China”, they focused on working conditions in a mass production toy factories and electronic factories in China
. One Swedish toy factory reports that 95% of their toys are manufactured in Hong Kong, China. Hong Kong was part of the British economy before it was reunited with China in 1997 – “enjoying more freedom and democracy than the rest of China”. The reported asked the manager of the toy store what buyers are looking for with their products and he replied with “buyers are interested in pricing”. It seems that all the people involved in running these large businesses are only interested in the profits being made. The film shows a small clip of inside the factory where workers are dealing with hot plastic for nearly 12 hours a day. He mentions how hot the factory is and that it is difficult to breathe.
The whole factory economy seem very secretive in what actually goes on, limiting camera crew to only certain areas and not allowing them to speak to any workers. Looking around the factory they notices signs warning workers that film producers would be in that day. What are they hiding?
The subject of gender is brought up quite often in these programmes and it seems that it is mainly females working under these conditions. It is explained by some workers that sons normally stay at home while the daughters migrate to the city to provide earnings for the family. One boss of the toy company says that 90% of workers are female and this is “because they are easy to manage”. On “A dollar a day” one factory boss mentions how girls are more precise and easier to manage than boys. The workers migrate from rural areas usually because “they have no choice but to come here to get better wages”. Nobody working in the factory is local residents.
Employees in this factory get paid for how fast they work. Those who work the slowest earn about 300 Yuan a month, when the average makes 500 Yuan. They are under a lot of control and follow ruins obediently; any slacking can result in a fine or dismissal. Working with plastic often results in burns or cuts, as a lack of safety equipment is seen. Any major injury caused will not even see compensation being offered.
Although it is very difficult for workers to leave their family behind, living conditions are normally better at the factory (but not much).
“My parents sent me here because they didn’t have the money to buy a new house. I really hated my parents when I had to leave home”
“The workers live in quarter, normally 12 to 20 a room”. And the only storage for personal items is on their beds.
This young girl on a dollar a day had the intelligence to go to University but her family did not have the money for it. There is a clip where she gets the opportunity to phone her family and arrange a trip home, it is an upsetting scene:
“I miss you so much. I feel so homesick. I want to go home…”
The girl hasn’t even seen her brother in almost four year and it is an emotional time for all when the trip finally goes ahead. She cannot see herself at the factory forever, as she would like to eventually open her own small shop restaurant.
It is crazy what some of the young girls actually do and put themselves through just to help their family out. It really makes you wonder if the young society in Britain would do that for their family today.