The True Cost of a Few Dollars

A set of new labor regulations in China will protect workers’ rights by setting standards for temporary employment, layoffs, severance pay and working conditions, the AP reported Friday.

The enactment of the new law was catalyzed by a recent corruption scandal in a rural province, where it was uncovered that a group of 32 migrants were being made to do slave-labor at a brick kiln. Among the group were children and mentally-disabled people, who toiled in horrific conditions 18 hours a day, under the watch of guards and dogs:

The brick kiln was operated by a foreman identified as Heng Tinghan, but owned by the son of the local Communist Party chief. According to local villagers, the brickworks were illegal but still allowed to operate with the tacit agreement of the local police and officials because the party boss’s son owned them.

The extraordinary revelations were followed by an open letter circulated on Chinese Internet fora, alleging that at least 1,000 children aged between eight and 16 years have been enslaved in the illegal brick kilns in Shanxi province. []

The twist? The new labor laws were reportedly met with vocal concern from foreign investors, who were alarmed that regulations might drive up the cost of business. This friction led the Chinese government to drop an aspect of the original legislation, which would have mandated that layoffs be approved by state-sanctioned workers’ unions:

They argued that overly restrictive rules could raise costs and hurt business. A report issued yesterday by the legislature on the approved law did not mention such union approval.

It said a company that plans to lay off more than 20 workers has to inform its union and listen to its opinion. []

This new regulation is certainly a step in the right direction, but is despicable that investors would sooner hold on to a few more dollars than see a higher quality of life for the Chinese people.

China is in a period of rapid growth and development; if this pattern continues (as it surely will) then it will eventually cease to be a nation of cheap labor – as it should. China’s skilled workers deserve to have job security and a comfortable existence, and they deserve pay that will allow them to enjoy the fruits of a booming economy.

Our continued demand for outsourced cheap labor will hurt everyone involved. This is evident in the layed-off American factory worker who continues to shop at Wal-Mart because he doesn’t see the connection between the loss of his livelihood and “saving” a few dollars by purchasing sweatshop-made foreign goods. The rhetoric of globalization and free trade doesn’t hold water when the playing field stays uneven.

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1 Response to “The True Cost of a Few Dollars”


  1. 1 Andrew August 15, 2009 at 5:48 pm

    Laphet Vs. Kimchee

    To answer your question about taste, the two coulld not be more different from one another.
    First, Kimchee is make from cabbage, generally something like Bok Choi that is cut and then lightly pressed. Crushed red chilli is added along with some other ingredients and then placed in a pot(sometimes burried) and allowed to ferment. I lived in Korea as a soldier for 18 months and was repulsed by the stuff then. The smell, which is quite strong and often unpleasant permeates the air and quite literly oozes from the skin of the consumer…..which is every Korean. Bad breath and B/O. The kind you find in jars in the US is for the most part the same with fewer of the side efffects. I do enjoy eating it now.
    Laphet is made from tea leaves. Picked green and bagged and fermented. I recently visited Myanmar(Burma) and bought some at a market along with lots of smelly fish and other great foods.
    My fiancee is from Myanmar and an excellent cook.
    Laphet is often mixed with fried peanuts and a large fried bean that are crushed along with tomatos and thinly sliced small red onions and garlic, salt, fresh chopped green chilis and oil.
    A little goes a long way and two table spoons makes a plate of rice outstanding.. I love Myanmar food and Laphet is #1 on my list.
    Each are quite different but both are excellent foods which are not to be missed.

    Bon Appetit


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