The Financial Times reports on a growing demographic problem in China; unlike their parent’s generation, who drove China’s economic success, young people in China just aren’t willing to work in miserable factories thousands of miles from home for crappy pay. Those that do work in the factories expect decent wages and, shocker, basic rights.
The apparently limitless supply of migrant labour – the basic building block of the successful Chinese manufacturer – appears to be running out.
Foxconn began to address increasing labour costs almost a decade ago by building plants away from the traditional coastal manufacturing hubs of Guangdong and Shanghai, where competition for workers was most intense.
Although Foxconn offers some of China’s best-paid jobs in electronics manufacturing, it is still struggling to hire enough workers to fill its new factories.
This shortage of human resources has resulted in some Foxconn plants (other exploitative engines of capitalism are available) busing in students for “internships” — working on the production lines.
The larger numbers of male factory workers create a “less docile” workforce, says Prof Enright. The majority of the 2,000 employees involved in last month’s Taiyuan riot were young men, according to witnesses.
Young men and women today have much higher aspirations than their parents did. Many psychotherapists employed at plants across southern China – partly in response to staff suicides – say the first generation to work in coastal factories compared their jobs favourably with their parents’ labour on the farms. Their more consumerist children, however, tend to compare their situation with that of today’s wealthy Chinese.
Faced with this same shortage of workers, some companies are replacing them with robots.