Do happier Chinese workers spell the end of affordable tech gadgets?

Moderated by Lawrence Dignan | February 13, 2012 -- 07:00 GMT (23:00 PST)

Summary: Will international concerns over working conditions in China’s technology industry eventually lead to increased prices of electronics gear?

Jason Perlow

Jason Perlow

Yes

or

No

David Gewirtz

David Gewirtz

Best Argument: No

The moderator has delivered a final verdict.

Opening Statements

Increased costs will be passed to consumers

Jason Perlow: As Chinese citizens accumulate wealth, and as China as a country becomes more of a participant on the world economic stage and as a member of the larger community of nations, and as its citizens gain more and more access to information about the world around them, its people will inevitably demand better working conditions, increased wages and increased rights overall.

One day in the future for the nations which consume Chinese manufactured technology, and for all of the companies that have to do business in China like Apple, the party will be over.

Any incremental cost of improving the lives of the Chinese workers will inevitably result in in increased costs in components and manufacturing outsourcing, which will be passed down to you, the consumer.

It absolutely will not be absorbed by business from the purity of their conscience.

How much more expensive is anyone’s guess. It could be as low as 20 percent or as high as double the cost.


See also:

A never-ending supply of cheap "i"-toys

David Gewirtz: Let's start by being clear about what we mean by the phrase "Happier Chinese workers". By "happier," we're implying that "happier" Chinese manufacturing workers would be better paid, have better working conditions, and not be as inclined (as some are) to the extreme of suicide.

Put in context, manufacturers like Foxconn, even with their regimented dorm living conditions, are actually already creating workers far "happier" than more than a billion of their fellow citizens, simply because they're able to make a living. Put another way, there's essentially a never-ending supply of impoverished souls, for whom working hard assembling our glittering toys would provide living conditions far above anything they've ever come to expect.

So rest easy. America's "Me" generation will still be able to get their never-ending supply of cheap "i"-toys, built on the backs of an enormous populous so destitute that thousands of hopefuls will stand in line for jobs we would never accept, even with improved working conditions.

 


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Talkback

200 comments
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  • RE: Do happier Chinese workers spell the end of affordable tech gadgets?

    Even if Jason is right companies would simply shift those jobs to even poorer countries as costs in China increase.
    PhillyIT
    Reply Vote I'm for No
    • RE: Do happier Chinese workers spell the end of affordable tech gadgets?

      @PhillyIT I think your right, the market for this assembly will just keep seeking cheaper labor where ever that may be. Its better then raising prices or taking a hit on profits.
      jscott418-22447200638980614791982928182376
      Reply Vote I'm for No
    • RE: Do happier Chinese workers spell the end of affordable tech gadgets?

      @PhillyIT The reason Chinese labor is so cheap is because there is such a large population of laborers, with no other options economically, in China. Factory workers can be spun up without affecting the labor market at large. Say you were to dump a million or more jobs into Brazil. The upward pressure on wages would be tremendous. No one but China has an unskilled labor force that is over a billion strong, so no one can absorb a large influx of work like they can without disrupting the labor market.
      SackScratcherton
      Reply Vote I'm for No
      • RE: Do happier Chinese workers spell the end of affordable tech gadgets?

        @SackScratcherton
        On population, India not far behind..

        However, I think for basic assemble jobs, some factory scum will start tapping into Africa - Famine or Factory.

        Take your pick of needy country

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_population
        neil.postlethwaite
        Reply Vote I'm for No
      • RE: Do happier Chinese workers spell the end of affordable tech gadgets?

        @SackScratcherton Needy countries = $$$ to tech companies. Africa is next. Think Kenya, any tech company would love to plant a fab there.
        JazzyJeff502
        Reply Vote I'm for No
      • RE: Do happier Chinese workers spell the end of affordable tech gadgets?

        @SackScratcherton -

        To those responders saying "Africa", do some research and see how far back "philanthropic" companies have been helping that country. (Now see how you too are noting Africa is just another "return on investment".)

        "Scum" might be too harsh a word, but what has been going has been contradictory to the concept of "freedom"... and that admittedly isn't nice.
        HypnoToad72
        Reply Vote I'm for No
      • RE: Do happier Chinese workers spell the end of affordable tech gadgets?

        @SackScratcherton Forget about the numbers. It is a cultural thing. Is the population of Brazil Chinese? Of course it isn't. Chinese people are dedicated and diligent because if they weren't it'd bring shame on 10 generations of their families. They've the perfect mindset it takes in order to effectively assemble high tech products. They're all tiger workers. I ought to know, as I've assembled electronics with Chinese workers and have witnessed it firsthand for myself. It is one task they will not allow themselves to fail at.

        Now you know why the nets are there. It is to catch Chinese workers who didn't live up to their own expectations. Not the crap the media has been feeding you. Now if you think everyone is created equal you're obviously not Chinese, and don't understand this issue at all either.
        paulfx1
        Reply Vote I'm for No
    • RE: Do happier Chinese workers spell the end of affordable tech gadgets?

      Absolutely, this has already started to happen in India. The sad part is that some manager will get a huge bonus when they are out of work like we are in the west, and they have somebody new to exploit!
      techietubby
      Reply Vote I'm for Yes
      • RE: Do happier Chinese workers spell the end of affordable tech gadgets?

        @techietubby

        It has happened as India had gone thru a boom as companies outsourced their IT work (programming, remote support, helpdesk, etc) to them. There has been an upsurge in wages and wealth which now makes the Indian workers much more expensive so now the next frontiers could very well be in Africa
        rcm0502@...
        Reply Vote I'm for Yes
      • RE: Do happier Chinese workers spell the end of affordable tech gadgets?

        @techietubby
        You might be right, but in my mind India is totally different. China is low skill manufacturing, where people remain 'about the same value', it's products not services.
        Conversely, India is service based, where people become more valuable with experience and can go direct to market via LinkedIn, Skype, email and so forth. Highly skilled workers are in demand, and demand/supply spirals will increase wages and costs.
        Back to China, and you'd need several thousand workers to 'realise' they're more valuable, then find several million in capital to start a factory...
        I think China is going to be low... relatively speaking, for some time yet...
        jigglesden
        Reply Vote I'm for No