Thursday, April 03, 2008

China Blue

I was motivated to post this comment on the site after someone said he wondered about minimum wage in China, when I pointed out what it was in Cambodia (USD50 for 48 hours a week):

Thanks for all who wrote encouraging things about Bloom. I really appreciate the kind words.

Re the comment about China's workers. You can easily Google the minimum wage in China. A June 07 report from Reuters: "The highest current minimum wage in China is [USD]$106 a month in the southern business center of Shenzhen. The lowest is $35 a month in the eastern province of Jiangxi. Shanghai, one of the world's most expensive cities, raised its minimum monthly wage by $7.80 to $98 a month last year."

Whether factories pay is another matter. If you've watched the documentary "China Blue", which follows the lives of a teenage factory worker and her boss, you will understand factories in China that try to treat and pay workers fairly simply cannot survive. They need to compete for the business of your Wal-marts and the like. These latter companies drive prices down because a) they need to sell clothes at the low prices demanded by customers and/or b) because they want to line their pockets and those of their shareholders.

I face the same challenges at Bloom. Many, many customers bargain with us, or try to drive prices down because they think, as a business located in the third-world, we should be priced like a Chinese factory. If I disagree, they take their business elsewhere. This means Bloom suffers. But I stick to my guns and tell these people (politely, of course) to piss off, because a) I am not running a Chinese factory and b) I believe strongly people should be paid fairly for their work, and I am not going to screw Bloom (which belongs to the workers) and c) Bloom invests in quality, which I believe is worth paying for.

At the end of the day, let us not kid ourselves and take the easy, unthinking, way out of blaming the factory owner and other people along the supply chain. The buck lies squarely with consumers, with people like you and me. Workers all over the world get exploited because we persist in buying things at a bargain, without understanding, or caring to understand, real world prices (the actual cost of a product, if workers were paid fairly) and we persist in buying branded goods, whatever the prices, again, not giving a thought as to how they were made.

It requires effort, certainly, to make an informed judgement about our consumer purchases, but don't you think it is worth it, to know that a teenage girl and her friends were not kept up 20 hours straight to produce x pairs of jeans, for which they were paid pittance, just so you can enjoy wearing a label on your backside? As a consumer you can make your voice heard. Vote with your wallet.

You can read more about the excellent "China Blue" here:

Diana Saw

Update from my last blog entry: Today, China has jailed yet another person for giving 2 interviews and writing 5 articles. Hu Jia is 34 years old and is a well-known human rights activist.

Another person, Yang Chunlin, who called for human rights to take precedence over the Olympic Games, was sentenced to five years in jail in late March. Meanwhile, veteran dissident languishes in Beijing Number 2 Prison, where 5 inmates have died from illness in 2007 alone. Human Rights in China alleges that inmates have been deprived of meat, fresh vegetables, and adequate outdoor exercise for an extended period of time.

Do people need more reason to boycott the Beijing Olympics?

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