How do you spell Shenzhen?

After listening to the Mike Daisey’s story of visiting the factories in China, I had a similar reaction to the one he explained at the beginning of his talk: I have never thought in a dedicated way how the technology I use is physically made. Just the fact that I had never even heard of the city of Shenzhen (I had to google how to spell it correctly) really made me realize how little I knew or thought about how my iPhone and laptop were put together.

I feel that sweatshops are things that everyone knows exist, but just tuck away in the back of their minds so they are not forced to feel bad about using all of their gadgets. I know that is what I have done in the past. But the truth is hard to ignore after listening to Mike list all of the terrors he witnessed while in Shenzhen. The number of suicides, lack of job rotation, long hours, and low pay are all issues that need to be addressed in some way. The problem lies in the fact of what to do to address them? As much as we would like to see the huge corporations step up and refuse to use sweatshops, it would most likely just lead to different companies taking their place and swallowing up the first corporations with their cheap labor.

I think the key lies in the workers themselves stepping up for their own rights and it seems like they are beginning to do just that. With a 10-20% turnover rate per month that these factories are seeing, at some point it should become more economical to increase wages and change conditions to keep workers for longer periods of time. As long as there are slews of willing workers to step in and work inhuman hours, these factories have no incentive to change their ways. If the workers in China continue to stand up for themselves and refuse to work under these conditions, hopefully the factories will be forced to increase wages and better conditions, which seems to be starting to happen now. 


5 thoughts on “How do you spell Shenzhen?”

  1. While I idealistically would like to agree with what you mentioned about workers stepping up for themselves, I think to some, this may be more harmful then not acting. Daisey mentioned the woman who confronted her company about the overtime pay she had not received, and she was ultimately placed on their blacklist, and then fired for trying to fight for her rights. Furthermore, while I agree that it would be more economical to increase wages and change conditions to increase the time that employees stay in their jobs, I feel as though major companies in China believe that workers are disposable, and that there will always have an abundance of new workers to fill the empty positions.


  2. I understand your rationale in saying workers should stand up for themselves. It worked for the United States, but this was mainly because of the success of unions. Then we exported all of our manufacturing overseas to countries with unstrict/nonexistant labor regulations in pursuit of a better bottom line. In a communist country in which joining a union could result in imprisonment, I see difficulty surrounding the idea of mobilizing as a workforce. I think the push needs to come from the stakeholder with the most leverage, the consumer. But I agree completely that a 10-20% turnover rate is insane and economical, which is only possible with vast labor force China has. It leaves a person to wonder how long Foxconn can continue this corporate environment.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That is true, I forgot about the fact that it is illegal to join a Union in China. Not being able to unionize definitely makes coming together as a workforce to fight for workers’ rights much more difficult. It is unfortunate that the Chinese government is not more concerned about the well-being of their workforce and are perfectly okay allowing their country to be used as cheap labor.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. I had a similar response to you while listening to the podcast. I also tried to google the town Shenzhen, but had no idea how to spell it. That’s when it kind of hit me how shocking it was that so many of the technological products consumers buy are made in one town that I’d never heard of it or knew how to spell it. I also agree with you that workers should stand up for themselves, but realistically at this point in time, it’s not very plausible. The drive to support their families keeps the workers in the factories, and I believe that drive is more powerful than their concern for their own well being.


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