Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Sweatshops Good

All the complaints about third world sweatshops are true and then some: factories sometimes dump effluent into rivers or otherwise ravage the environment. But they have raised the standard of living in Singapore, South Korea and southern China, and they offer a leg up for people in countries like Cambodia.

"I want to work in a factory, but I'm in poor health and always feel dizzy," said Lay Eng, a 23-year-old woman. And no wonder: she has been picking through the filth, seven days a week, for six years. She has never been to a doctor.

Here in Cambodia factory jobs are in such demand that workers usually have to bribe a factory insider with a month's salary just to get hired.
Along the Bassac River, construction workers told me they wanted factory jobs because the work would be so much safer than clambering up scaffolding without safety harnesses. Some also said sweatshop jobs would be preferable because they would mean a lot less sweat. (Westerners call them "sweatshops," but they offer one of the few third world jobs that doesn't involve constant sweat.)

This is from the New York Times via Coop (who else).

Our real problem with sweatshops is that we lose work. No question that they are substandard. But so were our factories as we developed them through the industrial age. Do we really expect an Asian factory worker to get $12.50 an hour? They will some day. Then the jobs will start coming back to the US.

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