* Wages Rising in Chinese Factories? Only For Some

Working in these Times: “If we are to take recent news reports at face value, the collective conscience of the worlds consumers can be eased, because conditions at Chinese factories are improving.

Last year, The New York Times told us that these workers are “cheap no more,” and just this February, the Heritage Foundation, touting the virtues of global free trade, claimed that Chinese factory wages have risen 20 percent per year since 2005. Foxconn, Apples major supplier and the manufacturer of approximately 40 percent of the worlds consumer electronics, says it will hold free union elections every five years.

But Pollyannas should take pause: The average migrant workers $320 monthly salary in 2011 was actually 43 percent less than the $560 national average, according to government statistics. And though its true that Foxconn will permit the election of union leaders, we have yet to see how much Chinas so-called democratic unions can empower the workers they purport to represent.

Skepticism and caveats aside, the reality is that the lot of formal production workers in China is indeed advancing, however slowly and painfully. But that is true only for formal workers. What many consumers and observers fail to note are the perilous conditions of Chinas temporary production workers and the increased tendency among Chinese factories to use such workers to manufacture the brand-name products that fill your home.

Factories supplying Apple and Samsung, for example, make heavy use of temp workers. According to official statistics, temp workers make up 20 percent of Chinas urban workforce of 300 million, though the proportion in individual factories often tops 50 percent. As China turns into a land of short-term workers, there are grave implications for labor, companies, and Chinese society.”

via Wages Rising in Chinese Factories? Only For Some – Working In These Times.

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