Each time I listen to one of the talks based on Mike Daisey’s The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs, I pick up on a different detail. Today, the Bucknell “un/real and un/true: The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs,” I picked up on what working conditions are really like at Foxconn compared to the status quo in China. Is it better to have the “miserable” job or be in poverty?
This week my answer is more on the side of Apple. In the play, Professor Zhu of Bucknell University, came in to give his opinion on the matter. One of his more interesting points was that the consequences of demanding an increase in wages would likely result in layoffs or simply firing those demanding them and hiring new workers who do not mind the low wages. Prof. Zhu also pointed out working at the factories offers a way for people to get out of poverty, a chance they likely would not have had otherwise. His conclusion was to blame globalization for the humanitarian issues in China but also to praise globalization for helping the people.
So, which is worse for the workers, poverty or the job? I believe that the poverty is worse because the jobs offer opportunity to help not only the worker but also the entire family of the worker. Many would argue the job is not worth it because of the terrible conditions and the suicides. However, Steve Jobs pointed out that 26 suicides per year out of about 400,000 workers is a lower suicide rate than the rate in the United States. Additionally, many of the workers are around 19 years old which means this is likely their first time being away from home and, I would guess, they do not have much support which would contribute to feelings of depression and suicide. Thus, I discount that argument. In conclusion, although I still do not believe that the working conditions are just, I do believe that the jobs are better than the poverty the people would face otherwise.