When I started writing this piece, I just couldn’t come up with the one angle that I wanted to cover. Pretty much everything that could be written on the topic, has been written. The tech blogs as well as the the mainstream media have published their views and thoughts. Even Apple CEO Tim Cook has also commented on the whole PR fiasco and what Apple has been doing to set things right.
I live in India, a country not that much different from China and, while, China may have made huge progress in it’s manufacturing prowess, a majority of the citizens of both China and India live in pretty much the same conditions. I also understand the fact that the majority of my countrymen don’t live the privileged life that I live. They don’t have access to the Internet, do not watch television to pass time and some of them may not even get to eat three meals a day while I spend money for a gym membership to ward off the fat I accumulate sitting and eating all day. These are poor people. Really poor.
A job with one of the largest manufacturers of gadgets and electronics gives these people a real job with a real paycheck and their families a chance to survive.
I agree that the conditions for workers inside those factories aren’t the best in the world and do not compare at all to “western standards”. But, China (and India) is (are) now where the western countries were during the industrial revolution about a century back. Anyone remembers how conditions for workers were in those days ? If I were to take a guess, the workers at Foxconn definitely have it much better than those who worked in factories during the industrial revolution.
Now, let’s be clear, I’m not saying that working conditions at factories should not be improved. What I’m saying is that these working conditions have been about the same since the beginning of the industrial revolution. If anything, they’ve improved because of the increased use of machines and robots.
Which is why we still see hundreds and thousands of people lining up at Foxconn’s doors for job interviews, even after they’ve read about and are aware of the kind of work they’ll be required to perform and the hours they’ll be asked to work.
They come for jobs because these jobs will let them feed their families back home, and raise their standing in the society. Instead of dying from hunger, or stealing for a living, they’ll be able to live a life of dignity. The “Western countries” don’t really understand this.
The simple truth of the matter is that our much loved gadgets, at this point in time, cannot be made anywhere other than China and this is probably good for the millions of people living in poverty in that country.
Image courtesy: Lighthouse Baptist Chapel