I like it when I read people making my point better than I can. Mr. Bolaji Ojo, writing in EBN Online does just that. His article is entitled ”Are Chinese Workers Really Defenseless?” His main point is that Chinese workers are more vocal and have more power to effect positive changes in labor rates and working conditions.
Two of the paragraphs seem to encapsulate the argument well:
If your image of the Chinese worker is that of a suppliant employee bowing subserviently before a whip cracking supervisor, you would be very far from the truth. The complete picture is a lot more complex and nuanced. Yes, workers in China still jostle for jobs, and a contract manufacturer can indeed mobilize hundreds of thousands of assembly line workers in the middle of the night to assemble the next-generation smartphones for the likes of Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL), but these same employees are beginning to use the very same technology devices they manufacture to demand better working and living conditions.
And, regarding rising labor costs in China…
What does this mean for employers? If your strategy in China has been based on squeezing cost out of your operations by tapping into a deep pool of low-cost labor, enjoy it while it lasts. The “China cost” will remain competitive for quite a while, compared with wages in North America, Europe, and Japan, but if the issue of unfair labor conditions remains visible, manufacturers flocking to the country should expect to pay a bit more and satisfy a lengthening list of demands.
I add two conditions which also tend to empower today’s Chinese worker.
- It’s a worker’s labor market. Factories are struggling to find and retain workers these days, and it would be extremely easy for any of dissatisfied Foxconn (or wherever) worker to go out and find another job immediately.
- Chinese workers are more and more litigious, and courts have been siding with workers in disputes against employers more and more in recent years.