Thursday, July 16, 2009
I was watching a documentary called China Blue yesterday. It's about Chinese migrant workers in a jeans-making factory.
In this factory, the workers work from 8a.m. to 2a.m., 7 days a week making jeans. At night they cram into dormitories housing 12 workers a dorm.
All their meals and dorm rent are deducated form their salaries. And as little Jasmine - the 17 year old worker in the show says - they earn 'half a yuan an hour' - about RM0.20.
Little Jasmine doesn't dare fall sick in case she is fired from work. She struggles to stay awake as day after day she works till the wee hours of the morning.
I thought about all the times I'd gone with my friends to buy cheap jeans. Actually, all my jeans are really cheap - none of them cost more than RM30+. We joke a lot about China-quality products as we browse through the shelves and say to one another with a shudder, "Wah... they pay the workers so little in China, that's why the clothes so cheap." Then we silently give thanks that we were not born in China, and continue browsing.
I really didn't realise though how much the Chinese migrant workers suffer nor how little they actually earn - that their pay is so miserly, it would be better for them to beg here in Malaysia. I'm sure our homeless earn more than RM0.20 per hour from begging! Malaysians are kind people.
There was even a little 14 year old girl working in the factory - small and sweet-faced. She has to work instead of study in order to earn money for her family back home in the village. Will her life be just that - scrimping and saving and working like a slave to "send money home to my family"?
Little Jasmine went to sleep in her dormitory with all her clothes and even her marshmallow jacket on just to keep warm. Bet the factory doesn't pay for heating in order to save money.
As the boss of the factory ruefully admits, the prices dealers are willing to pay are so low, he has to make his workers work long hours and pay them a pittance in order to make any profit at all.
What can be done to make a difference? I believe nothing will change as long as an affluent world shuts our eyes to the needs of others just so we can have our own happiness and comforts.
And it's no use saying, "It's a good thing there are these kind of factories at all, otherwise life would be even harder for those in China."
Yes, life could be harder - but life could be made easier too if we as a society are willing to pay a fair price for goods. It would mean that we would have less material things, but isn't it worth it to move over a little bit and give up a little bit so that every human being can have a decent life?