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.