Thursday, March 03, 2005

China and Trade

I wish I had seen this post 1 week sooner. I recently gave a presentation on Globalization, Trade and Jobs at Viterbo University and I got a good question from a woman in the audience. She asked if trade was so good, why do some people in foreign countries work under such terrible conditions. The article points out that we ought not jump to that conclusion. While I might think a 60 hour work week is pushing the upper limits, clearly there are some people in China who would like to work more.

Taiwanese factories in Dongguan [a city between Hong Kong and Guangzhou and a major centre of manufacturing] are facing a problem. According to a news report in the United Daily in Taiwan, over a thousand workers at a factory, which produces goods for big brand names such as Nike, demonstrated for two days and damaged equipment and factory cars. 500 armed police arrived and quashed the riot. Several leaders were arrested.

The main cause for the riot was the limitation [sic] on working hours at the factory. The shorter hours have been requested by US companies so as to avoid criticism from various groups on long working hours. However, the mainly migrant workforce want to work longer hours so they can earn more. Consensus had been reached by the US companies, the Taiwanese-invested factory and local government that the maximum working hours per week should be set at 60 hours [which is still a breach of Chinese Labour Law, but less than other manufacturing plants]. However, this reduction in hours was unsatisfactory for the workers and the resulting riot was serious.

Keywords: Trade, Employment, China

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