In what is a first on this blog, I need to point out that this is a sponsored post. I was contacted by an agency to watch and blog about the following video. However, the opinions and observations expressed are my own.
Produced by the Financial Times, “The end of the Chinese miracle” makes a bold point – the stunning growth of the Chinese economy is over, mainly because the average wage of Chinese factory workers has increased significantly, companies can no longer rely on cheap labor which has previously been the backbone of the Chinese economy. Migrant workers make up most of the workforce in the Chinese manufacturing industry and are responsible for making much of the goods that are exported, such as computers (maybe the very one you’re using now), TVs or shoes. Driven by poverty and lack of jobs at home, these workers come from provinces all over China to work in factories in the more prosperous, industrial coastal provinces. One could say China’s economic “miracle” of the past 15 years is heavily due to these migrant workers.
Now, China’s economic development has meant that younger migrant workers have bigger expectations, especially for salaries and work conditions, which is not surprising because who wants to work 6-day weeks for minimum wages at repetitive tasks, and factories are finding it harder to find workers.
Now, while rising wages may be a good thing for workers and suggest the economy is doing well, the issue is this comes amid a slowing economic growth for China, negative global economy, and an aging Chinese population which actually suggests the opposite. Rising wages means more companies are relocating from China to poorer countries like Vietnam or Bangladesh, with the number being expected to grow in the coming years.
However, there are Chinese companies which are now doing something that sounds strange for a country with 1.2 billion – bringing in foreign workers, such as from Vietnam to work in China. Many of them are smuggled across, as a woman says, to work in factories. There is an interview with a Vietnamese man who worked in a factory in China’s Guangxi autonomous region, which borders Vietnam, for 12 hours a day, but without any contract. Back on the home front, a Chinese migrant worker who returned to his home village says there are alternatives at home like farming or running a small business.
It’s an interesting video that shows how the times are changing for China’s migrant workers and maybe it is not such a bad thing for them, though it will have an adverse effect on the world economy.
The FT also has a features section on China’s migrant workers and their impact on the economy.