Aiding a Cause or Causing Agony?

The end of the play was my favorite part. The professor’s real life experience in China was enlightening. I liked her description of the jobs as being mundane and boring but not in horrible conditions. When she says that, “value judgment isn’t as simple as it seems at first,” I truly thought about my reaction to our original introduction to Daisey. I could not believe the conditions people worked in and that we accepted it by buying these products. But the realization that people know what the working conditions are like before accepting jobs and willingly working in these factories makes a bit different. It’s still not completely fair or right, but the jobs in these factories give workers their well-being. It’s hard to know where to draw the line between being forced to work and working willingly when conditions are bad. In a way, these people are forced to work in order to sustain their lives and the lives of their families and factory jobs are the only ones they can get. On the other hand, they apply for and accept these jobs that happen to bring us these great products. I have a hard time deciding whether or not buying the product is buying into a belief that it is okay and we are just giving people jobs or if it is in fact our consumerism that is adding to a horrible world practice. The professor in the play helped me to lean toward the former with her statement of economic purpose, but I find myself still hesitant to except either position.

Last semester I worked with a student from China in a group project in which we had to do extensive research on a public company. We chose Gap, Inc. He was very passionate about exposing the child labor scandal Gap had in Indonesia. They apparently were using sweat shops similarly to how Daisey explained Apple to be. So we were interested in asking if he was concerned about similar cases in China. Being from Hong Kong, he did not have any direct connection to the“sweat shop” like factories and seemed more interested in discussing that poor working conditions are not just in China, but all over the world. It was almost as if he was upset China was labeled this way.


5 comments on “Aiding a Cause or Causing Agony?

  1. I agree that there is a fine line between factories being helpful to workers, supplying them with jobs and economic resources, and consumerism being the reason for terrible work conditions. Its very interesting to think about why these factories are run the way they are and why people still work for them. Personally I feel like globalization and consumerism make factories like Foxconn the way they are. Companies like Nike and Apple understand the massive demand consumers place on them and utilize the cheapest labor possible to meet that demand. I think this is why these factories often have such terrible working conditions, because they need to meet the demands of their customers.

    • That’s a good point you bring up about meeting their customer’s demand. I’m sure Nike and Apple would like to pay their workers more, but their first priority is to their customers.

  2. I am completely sympathetic to the message of this post as much of it was what I was trying to get at in my own post. In particular, I think that the sentence that resonates most with me is: “I have a hard time deciding whether or not buying the product is buying into a belief that it is okay and we are just giving people jobs or if it is in fact our consumerism that is adding to a horrible world practice.” Undoubtedly, there are a lot of people who are caught in this dilemma as there is definitely a part of everyone who feel like they should do a little bit more to fight the abusive practices of offshore factories. At the same time, there seems to be no concrete way to determine exactly which nations and companies treat their workers well and which do not. Ultimately, until there is more transparency about the issue, it will be tough for us consumers to be held responsible for what we buy and to really affect change.

    • This quote stood out to me as well. It is hard to tell if the conditions and wages are worth it in these sweatshops. However, in China’s case, it does seem like the migrant workers who come from the countryside to the cities can earn higher wages by working these jobs and still manage to send money home to their families. Some questions I think are important are: how long will this continue to happen? Will it get better? Will wages rise? Is this the best solution for raising people out of poverty?

  3. I think that China gets singled out for its labor conditions because so many of our products come from there, giving them a spotlight on the issue. I know India, for example, has much worse conditions than described in China, but doesn’t cause as much controversy because the vast majority of our products that we use every day are not manufactured in India.

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