Kuta Beach

Kuta Beach

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Exploiting Cheap Labor

"As for the rich in the present age.... They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share." ~ 1 Timothy 6:17, 18
I am still a twenty-something, but I am almost thirty, and many of my friends are younger than I am, which makes me feel old. When a man feels old, he goes through a mid-life crisis and starts to ask himself questions such as what will his legacy be once he dies. If you're going to die, you might as well do something worthwhile while you're on this earth. But what is worthwhile?

This is a question for each individual to find out for himself, but if a man wants to have a positive impact on the world, a good place for him to start is to help others, especially the poor. If you are reading this now, chances are you can afford internet connection, and chances are you are among the wealthiest people in the world.

Of all the people in the world who care about the poor, I approximate that most of them believe that although helping the poor is a virtuous goal, it is a futile effort. Most people I speak to say that they would like to live in a world without poverty, a world in which the rich shared money with the poor, but they believe that they don't have enough money and that there is too much greed among humans, which leads to theft, and theft in turn creates poverty.

But I respectfully disagree. I believe that in the last century we have witnessed in India and China the greatest escape from poverty in human history. China and India are the most populous countries and the world. Together these two countries make up 40 per cent of the world's population. Yet the rise in the living standards in these two countries is not primarily the result of sharing wealth. In my humble opinion, the explosion of wealth in these two countries over the last few decades is primarily the result of mass exploitation of cheap labor.

Charity is an unreliable source of income. If you beg someone for money, he may hand you a dollar today, but rarely is a person willing to give too much, and the desire for charity is as fickle and unpredictable as the desire for sex. If you made a living from begging for money in the streets, chances are you will not have enough and you will not be satisified. How then do you and I make money?

We make money by working.

A job gives a worker not only money but it also allows the worker to develop skills and to help customers receive some good or service that they need. A job therefore is not like charity in that it does not rely on the fickleness of altruism but rather it exists to fulfill consumer needs.
"If a man will not work, he shall not eat." ~ 2 Thessalonians 3:10
Millions of Indians and Chinese grew rich because jobs were created. It is true that many of those who benefited from the sales of goods made through the exploitation of cheap labor were already rich (e.g. the shareholders of Nike) but if it weren't for Nike existing in the first place, these jobs would not have existed. If jobs eradicate poverty then those who create jobs should be rewarded greatly. Nike executives have found a way to give millions of jobs to poor citizens in poor countries and create demand for this labor through ingenous marketing to induce consumer demand.

So what are we to do? What is all this writing about? By writing all this I am trying to tell everyone that we do indeed have a lot of power in our hands. As consumers, whenever we buy a t-shirt that is made in China we are supporting jobs in China that allows someone in China to live by earning something rather than nothing.

The main point of this essay I write is to encourage readers to exploit cheap labor. If we see cheap products made in poor countries, we should not feel guilty buying it. Furthermore, products that exploit cheap labor tend to be cheaper, which benefits the consumers who buy them. Hence exploiting cheap labor is a win-win situation. When we go on holiday or when we retire, we should travel to poor countries and try to buy products that exploit cheap labor. How do we know what goods and services exploit cheap labor? That is where your common sense comes in. If you go to a poor country and stay at an expensive Western-style hotel that pay high wages to rich workers, chances are you are not helping the poor as much as if you go to a cheap three-star hotel that hires and pays low wages to poor workers.

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