At the recently built head office of Zhejiang Hongyu Medical Commodity Co.Ltd – the medical supplies firm which also sells to the UK\’s 99p Stores and Castleford-based firm OTL – factory workers said they put in 10-hour days, with two days off each month. For that, they are paid around £320.
Still, they say, the work is good. \”I\’m quite content with my job otherwise I wouldn\’t have stayed here for so long,\” said Wang Jinfang, a 42-year-old who has worked at the factory for 10 years.
\”There have been big changes in recent decades,\” she added, without pausing from her packing duties on the production line. \”The city is getting better year after year. The most important change for me is that more factories are bringing more job opportunities.\”
£320 a month is, close enough, around $6,000 a year. Back just 13 years, in 2000, the average wage in Chinese manufacturing was more like $1,000 a year. That\’s almost certainly the largest sustained rise in wages for the average bloke on the Chonquing Omnibus that the world has ever seen. Certainly better than what the UK achieved in the industrial revolution (they\’ve compressed our experience of 1600 AD to 1948 into the period from 1979 to 2013 by GDP per capita). Beats Japan in the 50s and 60s. There simply has not been any other system, place or time that has led to a greater reduction in poverty.
But the party may not last for ever. Local factory owners said overheads were rising and complained that it was increasingly hard to find staff.
And that\’s what has done it. It really is just as Marx said it would be. The capitalists, as long as you don\’t let them become a monopoly employer (monopsonist, but this word invented after his death), will compete among themselves for the profits that can be made by exploiting the workers. This competition will drive up the workers\’ wages. As those wages have indeed been driven up.
It really is as Madsen Pirie has pointed out. If you want to reduce poverty then go buy things made by poor people in poor countries. And this is also why everyone who is even vaguely lefty in outlook, even a tiny bit concerned about improving the lot of the poor, should be pro-trade, pro-globalisation, in short, should be neoliberal capitalist running pig dogs intent on exploiting the labour of the poor.
Because it fucking works, see?