Working Conditions in China

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In America a full time job is a 40 hour week, with time and a half pay for any overtime hours. Our minimum wage in New York State is six dollars an hour, and that is soon to be raised to $6.75 an hour on January 1, 2006. We are provided, for the most part, with healthy and safe working environments. In Chinese society it is nothing like this. Since the difference between the rich and poor is a lot greater in China than it is here, many of the poor jump at the opportunity to work in a factory or sweatshop job. They are very low paying and are not provided with a safe and healthy environment to work in. Often times the terrible environment is accompanied with abuse provided by the managers. It is not getting any better either because of corrupt government officials and also because poor people want and need these types of jobs.

In the sports shoe industry it began about thirty years ago because American workers bargained for higher wages and in turn the companies production costs rose (Asia Monitor). In response to the rise in prices shoes companies such as Nike and Reebok, and many more, moved their factories to more ideal locations, the most popular being in Taiwan and South Korea. In turn these countries became the largest shoe producing countries in the world. But yet again the shoes companies encountered a problem. The workers formed unions and started to demand higher wages along with better working conditions. The shoes companies reacted just as they had before, they relocated their factories to other countries without strict labor laws, or even better, enforced labor laws. Many of the companies moved to China.

Today, "China is the biggest shoe producing country in the world, producing over one-third of the world's top brand-name sports shoes (Asia Monitor)." The shoe companies are making a ridiculous amount of profits because the difference in their very low cost production and the high amount that they charge for their products. Nike made their own code of conduct for their factories overseas such as the ones in China. They have basic rules on many topics such as minimum wage, overtime work, general working conditions, and much more. Nike says that these rules are enforced but they are definitely not. Workers in their factories put in eleven hour days, are paid an average of $35 per month, and are all forced to work overtime (Asia Monitor). While these clearly break the rules in the Nike code of conduct, they are also breaking Chinese Labor Laws (Dougherty).

The low wages are not the only problem the Chinese workers have with their pay, their pay is often times withheld for an extended amount of time, or sometimes not even paid at all. There are "workers who [are] not paid for six months or a year at a stretch, and when they [are] paid, they [get] half of what they [are] promised (Gruenberg)." While the workers are also promised overtime pay, they are often cheated out of it. Since a lot of factories demand that the workers work overtime, they either just pay them the standard wage for their extra work, or don't pay them at all. Companies also find ways to deduct worker's pay by fining large amounts for being late or taking days off (Mulan's Sisters). These workers have found a new way to protest the fact that their pay is being withheld, and it is suicide. One example occurred last October on the first. In Bejing, a man named Yang Pei Quan had not been paid for months. He protested by pouring gasoline on himself in Tienanmen Square and lit himself on fire (Gruenberg). The Secretary-General of the Overseas Chinese Democracy Coalition, Ciping Huang, stated "there are hundreds of such cases. They jump off bridges and more often pour gasoline on themselves as a way of protesting. (Gruenberg)"

Nike is not the only Multinational company producing in China. Because of the low wages many companies shift their production to China. For a company trying to lower production costs,...
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