While life for a factory worker in China may be awful, there’s a reason why these jobs are filled. Contrary to a lot of news stories floating around out there that characterise wages as “pennies” per hour are a bit misleading. Obviously the comparison to Western wages is irrelevant; it’s all about standard of living. And for many factory workers, those wages are certainly better than what they’d get back home on the farm. Working conditions, of course, are another story.
Unfortunately, there is another piece to this puzzle, and that’s inflation. Wages have been on the rise for some time, but price hikes in China over the past few years in areas like food and housing have facilitated even more dramatic wage increases.
The annual average growth of China’s minimum wages should be at least 13 per cent in the five years to 2015, according to a government job market plan for the period published on Wednesday.
Raising pay is key to the jobs blueprint, part of Beijing’s 12th Five-Year Economic Plan, which aims to boost employment in the world’s No 2 economy.
Minimum wages in China range from 1,500 yuan ($240) per month in Shenzhen to 870 yuan in Chongqing. The government wants minimum wages to be 40 per cent of average local salaries by 2015, according to the plan posted on its website (www.gov.cn).
The average monthly wage of China’s 158 million migrant workers in 2011 surged 21.2 per cent from 2010 to 2,049 yuan.
In the five-year period from 2006 to 2010, the average minimum wage in China increased 12.5 per cent per year, official data showed.
So part of this is an attempt to keep up with inflation. However, that probably doesn’t account for the entire move here. Is the standard of living for a minimum wage laborer here rising, and will it continue to rise in the out years?
Should this be factored into all those Apple/Foxconn stories that suggest industrial workers in China are akin to slave laborers, working for a pittance?
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