Lovely little app that shows the history of Chinese characters, helps you learn too!
Products made in China? Or not.
For some time now, products have been produced in China for a fraction of what the west could produce them for. Taking this in to consideration, how are the workers affected by this and do the public of the UK even care? Personally, I know where most of my clothes come from, but sometimes it is harder to pinpoint this accurately. A few of my own clothes have been designed in the West, but physically made in the East. The reason for this? Cost?
The cost of clothing, electrical products and other ‘necessities’ are super cheap to produce in the East, due to workers staying in the factories, working stupidly long hours and the actual costs of living in China and similar countries. The book, Factory Girls by Leslie T. Chang highlights the stories of many Chinese girls, often young, coming into the cities to work and earn a way of life. They are interviewed, but rarely get to see inside the factory or their living quarters before hand. Living quarters are usually horrendous, compared to Western standards, and as many as 12 girls can share a ‘dorm’. Is this acceptable?
Quite frankly it’s not acceptable, but the West still exploit this scenario and China allows its workers to live this way, often on very poor wages. Make no mistake, the cost of living is very cheap in China, but when the West come calling, the workers suffer. In contrast to that statement, the factory owners will see this as a great opportunity to get business from the West, possibly open up a new factory etc, thus lining their pockets, and making the divide between the rich and poor greater.
As a friend of mine once said:
‘We’re born, we try, succeed, then die.’
This is certainly true of the Chinese factory workers way of life. Sometimes though, workers don’t succeed. What happens to them? They can disappear in the streets of hundreds of thousands, and never be seen again, or they can move on to another factory if they find their original employers ‘not suitable’. This means starting all over again, and with little qualifications, this can be difficult.
This brings me to the West. Are we over qualified and over expectant on pay, to produce such items? The answer is no. It all comes down to money, and if a company in the West can ‘acquire’ a factory to work for them, produce more units per hour and pay workers a tenth of what the West equivalent would be, then why should they have it in the West? Would you be happy paying more for the same product if it was produced in the West?
I adventured into Dundee with my assignment group and decided to ask the general public some questions about China and production of goods over there. The three questions were:
–Do you have any idea where the majority of your products are produced?
-Are you willing to pay a bit more money for clothes if you knew they were made in better conditions?
–Do you own any Apple products and/or know where they were manufactured?
Elizabeth and I decided to team up and ask some questions to passers by in the Overgate shopping centre. We first approached a 17 year old female. We first asked if she owned any Apple products, and er response to this was that she owned an iPhone. Even though owning an iPhone, and with all the recent news concerning Apple production in China, the girl didn’t have a clue where any of the parts were produced. I think it’s this kind of ignorance by the young in society today, that really pisses me off.
In comparison to this, we spoke to an elderly lady who seemed to be fairly switched on about a few things. She came to the conclusion that a lot of goods were built in China, then sold for profit to customers in the West. The lady didn’t own any Apple products, and I’m pretty sure she thought we may have been speaking about the fruit…I digress. When asked if she would pay more for a product if it was produced more fairly and with the workers having better living conditions, she answered ‘yes’. She stated that, most people, young and old, need access to a computer at some point in their lives and if the cost were to go up, she would still pay.
After speaking to the public, we decided to ask some shop workers if they knew where their products were from. We ventured into StormFront (Licensed Apple Retailer) and also paid a visit to the SuperDry Clothing store.
Upon venturing into the Apple shop we were greeted by a young man of 22. We cut to the chase as we didn’t want to take up too much of his time. For the first question he stated that it wasn’t a well known fact, or a fact that Apple were happy to divulge, that their products were made in China, and more than likely in poor conditions. When asked if he would still buy the same product, but at a higher cost due to fairer working conditions. He stated that his love for the products came first, but would like to see factory workers being treated fairer. He also owns pretty mcuh every Apple peripheral known to man, so it’s safe to say we have found someone who actually knows what is going when coming to electrical goods.
On our way back to our afternoon class, we decided to pop in to the SuperDry store and have a look at some of the labels. We noticed that some of the more expensive options in the store were made in China, whereas some of the middle of the range items were made in Turkey and India. So it was clear to see that exploitation goes on throughout the whole world, and not just China. Before we left, we asked a 23 year old female member of staff if she knew where SuperDry’s products were made. She stated that she wasn’t sure if she could answer that due to store policy. We then stated that the labels on the clothes say where they are made. I’m not sure if she was all there in the head. She also stated that she would buy the same clothing if it cost more, due to her love for the brand.
In conclusion to what we have found, I think the general public don’t really care about where things are made, as long as the can keep up with their neighbour, so to speak. It’s a sad state of affairs that I find society to be like this. If only more people would take a small amount of time to read a book about exploitation, not just in China, but all around the world, then we could maybe combat the injustice that goes on.
There’s an interesting article in the New York Times about why so many things are made in China. It focuses on Apple, for some reason (as if they’re the only company that has stuff manufactured there) but raises lots of interesting points. In particular, it’s not simply about low wages, but about capability. If you need 3,000 people to make a new device, what country will have the people with the skills? Not the USA, not the UK…
It is hard to estimate how much more it would cost to build iPhones in the United States. However, various academics and manufacturing analysts estimate that because labor is such a small part of technology manufacturing, paying American wages would add up to $65 to each iPhone’s expense. Since Apple’s profits are often hundreds of dollars per phone, building domestically, in theory, would still give the company a healthy reward.
But such calculations are, in many respects, meaningless because building the iPhone in the United States would demand much more than hiring Americans — it would require transforming the national and global economies. Apple executives believe there simply aren’t enough American workers with the skills the company needs or factories with sufficient speed and flexibility. Other companies that work with Apple, like Corning, also say they must go abroad.
Manufacturing glass for the iPhone revived a Corning factory in Kentucky, and today, much of the glass in iPhones is still made there. After the iPhone became a success, Corning received a flood of orders from other companies hoping to imitate Apple’s designs. Its strengthened glass sales have grown to more than $700 million a year, and it has hired or continued employing about 1,000 Americans to support the emerging market.
But as that market has expanded, the bulk of Corning’s strengthened glass manufacturing has occurred at plants in Japan and Taiwan.