The Life of a Chinese Factory Worker

If she were in China, there would be little to no protective gear.

If she were in China, there would be little to no protective gear.

Let’s face it, work is not easy. If it were then nobody would ever want to retire. Working on an assembly line or other type of factory job, is way tougher than pushing paper in a regular office job. Although you may be working the line day in and day out, thank your lucky stars that you do not work in a Chinese factory. Thanks to agencies like OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration), factory jobs in the United States are considerably safer than in the East. Consider for a moment what life would be like if you had to spend your days on a Chinese factory line.

Long Hours, Little Pay

The average work day here in the United States is about eight or nine hours, with a lunch break thrown in. A factory worker in China may work over sixteen hours, sometimes six days a week. The pay for all of this overtime is sometimes as low as 55 cents per hour. In the United States, that pay would not even cover a coke and a bag of chips from the break room. The reason factory owners can get away with this is because the typical factory worker is young and uneducated. Many wouldn't stand up for better conditions out of fear of losing the little pay they are receiving. To be fair, factory work pays better than other jobs these people might be working. Most workers have traveled far just for the chance to work, and their many family members are counting on this money.

Hold on to Your Limbs

According to a story in the New York times, factory workers near Hong Kong lose approximately 40,000 fingers annually working on the job. These workers are often untrained or working on old, antiquated equipment. You may wonder why these factories don’t upgrade the equipment. The problem is that it costs money to upgrade and train, and making cleaner, safer working conditions would increase production costs. Chinese factories keep costs down so that companies won’t take their business elsewhere, such as to cheaper Southeast Asian countries like Vietnam and Cambodia. Unfortunately this comes at a high cost to the worker. Many workers experience bruising, rashes and blisters caused by overheated machinery and caustic substances.

Benefits? What Benefits?

If you happen to lose a limb while stitching a sole on that high end running shoe, don’t expect to be sent to your local HMO. Most Chinese workers rely on the nation's broken healthcare system and do not receive healthcare benefits from their employer. Not only that but many factories do not have onsite nursing facilities to attend to wounds caused on the job. Workers simply continue on with their duties, often with blisters and cuts. Of course if you were to be one of the lucky few that have some form of benefits then you will need to spend an entire day waiting to actually see the doctor, and getting the time off from work just isn't going to happen.

You May Not Make it to the Prom

In order to supply the factories with fresh labor, many Chinese companies recruit from high schools and sometimes elementary schools. Workers as young as seven years old have reportedly been spotted working in factories. US companies with dealings in China have tried to stop this by not doing business with factories that use child labor, but it is tough to regulate. Some Chinese factories are starting to beef up their security to keep out nosy journalists and labor groups who try to report on these problems. In the US, our teens are working as cashiers or folding shirts at the mall after school. In China, they’re sewing shirts instead of school.

 

About the Author

Adele Burney started her writing career in 2009 when she was a featured writer in "Membership Matters," the magazine for Junior League. She is a finance manager who brings more than 10 years of accounting and finance experience to her online articles. Burney has a degree in organizational communications and a Master of Business Administration from Rollins College.

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