Globalization has caused the fragmentation and decentralization of production. Take mobile phone as an example, battery, chip and screen could be produced in different countries in order to gain comparative advantages. (Ravenhill, 2005, p.21)
As a matter of fact, production costs in less developed countries (LDCs) such as China, Vietnam and Cambodia are much lower than more developed countries because of low wages, lax regulations and subsidies from local government. Undoubtedly, less developed countries would strive for foreign investment to boost its economy so as to create more jobs, build infrastructures and provide more welfare. Nevertheless, workers in less developed countries pay heavy prices.
Sweatshop is not unfamiliar to us nowadays. Workers in LDCs often employed at low wages and work under oppressive environment. Yiwu is a “Christmas village” in China, more than 600 factories in Yiwu that produce 60% of all the decorations in the world.
Workers was working 12 hours a day for a maximum of £200 to £300 a month and each worker was required to produce 2500 red snowflake each day. They also risked their health to work in a dusty environment because of coating polystyrene snowflakes with red powder. Workers need to consume at least 10 face masks each day, trying not to breathe in the cloud of red dust.
This is not the only example in China, Foxconn is a well-known electronics manufacturer. The company helps transnational corporations such as Apple, Dell and Samsung to manufacture and assemble electronic devices. It has been exposed that nearly half workers worked over 70 hours per week, and workers were often denied pay for extra hours. Since 2010, at least 15 Foxconn employees committed suicide, probably due to stressful working environment.
The exploitation of the working class seems to be more severe in the name of globalization. Regarding wage and working hour, workers often break regulation of maximum working hours. Their wages have been deducted under careful calculation by the company. With regard to working environment, some companies put their workers in danger. To be specific, workers need to in touch with harmful or toxic chemicals such as mercury. However, companies did not provide enough protection such as gloves and masks to employees. Mentally, employees worked in a stressful environment. Certain companies emphasized on discipline, management reckoned that tight control could push the workers to work harder. For example, employees were forbidden to talk or communicate during or after their work, workers were being alienated and isolated, companies treated them as robot or machine. Not only the corporations directly exploited the workers, the government also did it as well. Local government encouraged foreign investment, so they set up lax regulation and favorable policy to attract more transnational corporations. The government also turned a blind eye to complaints regarding exploitation of workers.
Indeed, globalization can contribute rapid increase economically. However, the rich become richer and the poor become poorer. Ruling class rationalizes legitimacy of globalization without considering exploitation and domination of the working class as well as inequality between the capitalist and the working class.
According to Marxism, capitalism was a necessary phase through which all countries must progress. (Ravenhill, 2005, p.21) The state has educated the citizenry to obtain the consent of the governed; and this has maintained the dominance of the ruling class. It is time for the working class to reflect whether they should yield to the hegemony.
By Angela Tam
Ravenhill, J. (2005). Global political economy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Robinson, W. I. (2004). A theory of global capitalism: production, class, and state in a transnational world. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.
Seligson, M. A. (2008). Development and underdevelopment: the political economy of inequality. Boulder, Colo.: L. Rienner Publishers.
Watts, J. Foxconn offers pay rises and suicide nets as fears grow over wave of deaths. The Guardian. Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/world/2010/may/28/foxconn-plant-china-deaths-suicides
Garside, J. (2012). Apple’s factories in China are breaking employment laws, audit finds. Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2012/mar/30/apple-factories-china-foxconn-audit