Shocker: Chinese sweatshop laborers save money, stop working in sweatshops

The Oregonian has a good article on the positive effects of Nike and Columbia Sportswear’s much maligned outsourcing to China:

It turns out that factory workers — not the activists labeled “preachy” by one expert, and not the Nike executives so wounded by criticism — get the last laugh. Villagers who “went out,” as Chinese say, for what critics described as dead-end manufacturing jobs are sending money back and returning with savings, building houses and starting businesses.

Workers who stitched shoes for Nike Inc. and apparel for Columbia Sportswear Co., both based near Beaverton, are fueling a wave of prosperity in rural China. The boom has a solid feel, with villagers paying cash for houses.

[…]”They’re sleeping 12 in a dorm, and it looks like a pretty crappy life,” Chang said. “But you don’t hear workers say, ‘Oh, I have no hope, I’m a slave.’ They say, ‘I want to save some money. My dream is to be Bill Gates or to own a restaurant.'”

Hard work and saving money: probably foreign concepts to a lot of the trust-fund activists who so vehemently oppose* so-called sweatshop labor — kids who’ve most likely never spent a summer working an incredibly crappy job. Granted, as the article points out, there are still problems in some of the factories, but on the whole wages and factory conditions have improved and the “exploited” workers are using their wages to raise their standard of living and stimulate local economies.

But who could have seen that coming? If only there was some sort of field of study to predict how rational actors will satisfy their needs and wants in a market economy.

Hat tip to UO Matters.

* Back in the day at the University of Oregon, hundreds of pudding-headed activists occupied the lawn outside the administration building and demanded that then-President Frohnmayer join the Worker Rights Consortium — an anti-sweatshop group. Frohnmayer initially caved to the protesters’ demands, but he soon backed out after Nike guru Phil Knight decided that the Uncle Phil Gravy Train would no longer be making stops at the U of O.


12 Responses to “Shocker: Chinese sweatshop laborers save money, stop working in sweatshops”

  1. 1 Vincent
    March 8, 2010 at 6:11 am

    I seem to remember those kids locking themselves in foyer of Johnson Hall for a day or so, too. But yeah, they accomplished nothing except stroking their own egos, as usual.

    Now and again they’ll trot out a few foreign activists with exotic sounding names to add a little “ethnic” cred to the whole thing and go on to claim to speak on behalf all the “oppressed.” Meanwhile, “the oppressed” are out making a life for themselves and their families and couldn’t care less about white kids and their trite notions of “social justice,” as usual.

    All the outrage about outsourcing jobs to India left a bad taste in my mouth, too. While the whole “outsourcing” thing manifested itself as a bludgeon to club “evil multinational corporations,” it was really just sort of the progressive version of “THAY TUK ARE JAWRBS!!!”

    Plus, it’s kind of hard to get too worked up over the idea of American workers, mostly in the tech industry and many of whom got fairly generous severance packages, losing their jobs to people in India, where said jobs offer the possibility of attaining a halfway decent standard of living. I mean, how dare those brown people presume to rise out of squalor? And how dare Dell or whoever offer them the opportunity to do so?

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