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Re: <nettime> The Art of Sweatshops
Rana Dasgupta on Sun, 8 Aug 2004 14:36:39 +0200 (CEST)


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Re: <nettime> The Art of Sweatshops


Coco

You're right - it would be disingenuous to sideline the issue of the cheap
labour.

I would just add two things.  First: the amazingly low costs of production
in China cannot be reduced to low wages alone.  The Indian newspapers are
always commenting in exasperated tones about the fact that Chinese workers
are 2, or 3, or 4 times more productive than Indian workers.  This
divergence is not about wage levels but about processes, technology,
community structure, social and political controls, etc - and it helps to
account for the vastly higher levels of FDI in China compared to India.

Secondly: business leaders understand perfectly well that cheap labour on
its own is a short-lived economic advantage.  Jobs that came to India five
or ten years ago are already leaving for other countries that can now
undercut India.  Whenever companies grow up on the strength of a simple
promise to offer the cheapest labour they therefore have to struggle fast
to offer some other kind of value than this before their advantage is lost
to somewhere else.  What you say remains true of course: China has 1.2
billion people, and stern controls on employment and movement which
guarantee a huge supply of cheap labour even at this time of its hectic
growth.  But shifts of the size that are happening cannot happen in any
protracted way simply because there is very cheap labour around.

Although perhaps the nation state for the 21st century has to have
*everything*.  A big, prosperous, well-educated, ruthless, ambitious
middle class.  An almost unlimited pool of poor rural refugees with
nowhere to go to except vast urban slums.  And strict controls on space
and movement so that social categories remain distinct and any desired
combination of human types can be served up to corporate needs.  Works
best if you have more than a billion people.

R



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