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The Voices of China's Workers

TED Talks In the ongoing debate about globalization, what's been missing is the voices of workers -- the millions of people who migrate to factories in China and other emerging countries to make goods sold all over the world.


Our collective understanding of modern industrialization and globalization needs to go beyond the binary of "oppressors" and "victims."  This lecture explores the voices and lives of Chinese workers that we so often simply see as simply victims of a system, but are full of ambition and agency. 

 

Tags: industry, globalization, labor, China, TED. 


Via Seth Dixon
Elizabeth Allen's insight:

This is an interesting video.  Leslie Chang was able to gain such perspective from the girls who work in China's factories.  Learning about how the girls are optimistic about their future.  They don't want the Coach Bag or IPhone they are making- it would take months for them to afford it...  They want an education and social mobility.  It was uplifiting to hear that factory workers want education and more out of life, however as mentioned- they are "invisible"  We (Westerners) avoid the idea that people in China working for next to nothing in response to our lifestyle and demands. This also makes you think about when you see a product that is considered an 'American Classic'  it does not mean made in America.        Elizabeth Allen  

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Braden Oldham's comment, May 2, 2013 9:49 PM
The workers seem to not see their work as bad as we see it. They see it as a opportunity, bette then waht they had before.
Sarah Graham's comment, May 3, 2013 1:54 PM
I think that we often overlook the fact that life and culture is very different in these places. Here, the factory workers probably don't want the I-phones that they are making. We don't think about the people and how they WANT these jobs. These people want to make their life better, just like you and me.
Ryli Smith's comment, May 5, 2013 2:55 PM
In these Chinese factories, they don't view these jobs as harsh or poor treatment because this is better than how they would be doing back in their villages. They want these jobs so bad because they will give them a better life. Also, you have to remember that not all of these Chinese factory workers want to have an iPhone or a Coach purse or Nike shoes, because those things don't have any worth in their culture.
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Worker safety in China

This is an incredible video because of the shocking footage of blatant disregard for worker safety.  This can lead to an interesting discussion concerning how China has been able to have its economy grow.  What other ways has China (or Chinese companies) been "cutting corners?"  How does that give them a competitive edge on the global industrial market?     

 

My heart was in my throat watching this video. Is that the procedure for demolishing the entire building? Ironically this was to clear way because the Olympics were being held in Bejing. There is some irony here, representatives from other travelling down that main road would be appalled to see these working conditions. And for little pay on top of risking their lives.   According to the National.ae.com, close to 80,000 people died in 2010 due to unsafe working conditions.

Elizabeth Allen


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Paige McClatchy's curator insight, December 14, 2013 5:13 PM

This video is jaw-dropping proof of how China cuts corners in their quest for growing their economy. With such a large population looking for work China does not really need to protect their workers. I wonder if China will experience a labor movement similar to the one in the US that introduced protective legislation.

Nathan Chasse's curator insight, April 12, 9:19 AM

This video shows a complete lack of concern for worker safety in China. The workers use the backhoe as a makeshift platform so one of them can cut the rebar suspending a massive piece of concrete from the side of the building. These kinds of shortcuts are the ways which China is able to keep a competitive edge in the world market. With hardly any regard for fair wages, worker safety, or worker rights, China is able to manufacture goods for prices no one else can compete with. Eventually, China will face opposition from its workforce as its industry matures and the government can either appease them or face revolution.

Lauren Stahowiak's curator insight, April 14, 6:47 PM

In Beijing, workers safety is not a top priority. This video may shock viewers to the extreme levels workers will go to for such a small paycheck. This worker, many stories up climbs onto an excavator to be lowered down to a area that could not be reached. It is insane how these unsafe conditions compare to Americas. It makes you wonder how China has such a growing economy and a global leader when when things like this are happening on a day to day basis.

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Brazil's economy overtakes UK's

Brazil's economy overtakes UK's | Geography 400 at ric | Scoop.it
Brazil has overtaken the UK as the world's sixth largest economy, the Centre for Economics and Business Research says.

 

The "BRIC" countries are surging forward and are seen as major players in the global economy (Brazil, Russia, India and China). Brazil just recently past the U.K. as the 6th largest economy.  China passed Japan not more than a year ago.    Furthermore, Russia and India are poised to pass the traditional European economic powers (U.K., Germany, France and Italy) by 2020.  In this restructuring of the global economy, what will the impacts be on various regions of the world? 

 

The statistics prove that Brazil is higher ranking economically that the UK. Brazil is succeeding economically. It must have to with their natural resources and financial gains of exporting goods.  Brazil is economically expanding.  Elizabeth Allen


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Matt Mallinson's comment, September 26, 2012 10:04 AM
Until learning this, I had no idea Brazil was considered one of the world's top six largest economies. When I think of Brazil I think of rainforests and the amazing city of Rio de Jeneiro, I want to visit there at least once before I die.
Elizabeth Allen's comment, November 16, 2012 5:28 PM
The statistics prove that Brazil is higher ranking economically that the UK. Brazil is succeeding economically. It must have to with their natural resources and financial gains of exporting goods.
Cam E's curator insight, February 11, 11:46 AM

BRIC has always interested me as an alternative to the traditional centers of economic power. The four BRIC countries are all powerful up and comers and their positioning all around the world and lack of cultural commonality make them a very intriguing force.

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India's Census: Lots Of Cellphones, Too Few Toilets

The results of India's once-in-a-decade census reveal a country of 1.2 billion people where millions have access to the latest technology, but millions more lack sanitation and drinking water.

 

More Indians are entering the middle class as personal wealth is transforming South Asia's economy in the private sector.  Yet the government's ability to provide public services to match that growth still lags behind.  Why would it be that it is easier to get a cell phone than a toilet in India?  What will that mean for development?

 

What a difference between luxury and necessity. Yes, everyone feels that cellphones are a necessity. However, in a region that lacks working sanitation and plumbing, cellphones are a luxury. Clearly India is in desperate need of "the basics". With its never-ending growing population, the statisitcs of people lacking proper plumbing will surely rise. It is sad to think of a country where over 60% are without what we take for granted.   Elizabeth Allen


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Paige Therien's curator insight, April 17, 1:41 PM

India's economy is transforming, but only for individuals, who are quickly becoming rich or, more commonly, part of the growing middle class.  This change, mixed with a corrupt, non-incentivized  government is creating a picture of uneven development in India.  The government is not supplying basic needs to the growing population, which mainly effects the poor.  Half of the population are lacking basic sanitation and access to clean water.  These needs can only be met with a strong infrastructure, which the government has neither the money nor the motivation to rebuild.  However, Indians do have the access to things like cellphones and televisions.  This is due to the fact that these goods are privatized and easy to obtain (as opposed to ripping apart a city to put infrastructure in place).  So, uneven development is seen not only in the general economy, but also in access to resources and material goods. 

Lorraine Chaffer's curator insight, June 17, 6:42 AM

Consequences of urbanisation

Seth Dixon's curator insight, August 30, 10:36 PM

More Indians are entering the middle class as personal wealth is transforming South Asia's economy in the private sector.  Yet the government's ability to provide public services to match that growth still lags behind.  Why would it be that it is easier to get a cell phone than a toilet in India?  What will that mean for development in India?  These comedians are seeking to use humor to bring this issue to light.

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Troubles on Russia's Lake Baikal

Troubles on Russia's Lake Baikal | Geography 400 at ric | Scoop.it
Workers at an ailing paper mill in Siberia are clinging to their jobs in the face of financial pressure and criticism from environmentalists.

 

The environment, industry and politics play key roles in this story of an old style Soviet mono-town on Lake Baikal.  Monotowns had planned economies that revolved around one industry and today many of these are struggling in the post-Soviet era.  While the particulars of the political situation are a bit dated, the overall issue is still quite relevant to understanding Russia today.   

 

This video provides a clear picture of lasting effects of post-Soviet times. The Siberian mill was at one time a central industry town. Now that the industry has slowed down, it is becoming criticized for its environmental flaws. Environmentalists want to close the factory down, however there is a society of workers who are soley dependent on their jobs here. Through the transition from communsim to capitalism many factors need to be considered. The factory is causing a great deal of harm to the environment and the health of the people, however to just hut it down would disrupt the stability of the people who work there.  Elizabeth Allen

 

Tags: Russia, industry, labor, environment, economic, water, pollution, environment modify, unit 6 industry.


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Brett Sinica's curator insight, October 20, 2013 2:43 PM

The story of this particular mono-town is very tough to "pick sides".  The factory undoubtedly pollutes the air and land like most other industrial areas, but being so close to Lake Baikal gives environmentalists a stronger reason to complain.  The lake is considered one of the purest and most unique in the world, yet the paper mill located on its banks raise controversy.  This is where the locals and workers are stuck between a rock and hard place.  Located in Siberia, such a vast and open region with little settlements compared to the western part of the country reminds the people living there that their resources are limited.  Closing down the factory would almost eliminate income and economy for the mono-town.  This is where the fine line is drawn; the workers surely aren't happy about the pollution and environmental hazards that go along with keeping the mill open, but at the same time the people could wither away if it wasn't up and running.

Ashley Raposo's curator insight, December 19, 2013 1:42 AM

THough the Soviet Union has been gone since the early 90s, it's hold on Russia is still creating problems. The creations of monotowns were already flawed. But to have this one monotown on Lake Baikal has gained the attention of enviromentalists. All odds are against that monotown. Without it's paper factory they have no jobs and no need for the town. It is a fight between enviromental geography and human geography in this area of the world. These people are stuck in a time where even the Soviet Union looked a little better than the constant wondering of your finacial stability in an up and coming capitalist nation.

Paige Therien's curator insight, May 4, 12:05 PM

The Soviet Union scattered "monotowns" around their territory; these monotowns consist of a job-creating industrial institutions like factories which then allow the formation of towns around them.  They are located all around the former Soviet Union and are very isolated.  After the collapse of the Soviet Union, these towns continued to run due to the privatization of the industrial center.  Today, Russia's Lake Baikal, which is the deepest lake in the world and contains 20 percent of the Earth's fresh water, is home to one of these monotowns.  This particular town's economy is based on their paper mill which uses and deposits tons of chemicals.  Environmentalists are very concerned for the future of the lake while the citizens are only concerned with feeding their families and this is creating social unrest.  Due to the isolation and distance from Moscow, people cannot just pick up and leave.  Also, working with "cleaner" alternatives is way out of this town's budget.  Today, many citizens in these monotowns miss the support that the Soviet Union offered and people are literally stuck in a place where their only income is dirty.

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Why more Mexicans are staying home

Tiny Tamaula is the new face of rural Mexico: Villagers are home again as the illegal immigration boom drops to net zero. Full story on CSMonitor.com: http:/...

 

Contrary to popular opinion, illegal immigration from Mexico to the United States is not really a problem in 2012.  As conditions on both sides of the border have changed, this gives a glimpse into the life choices of Mexican villagers.  For more on this issue see the complete article at: http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Americas/2012/0408/Home-again-in-Mexico-Illegal-immigration-hits-net-zero ;

I have to say that I was surprised with what we learned in class and what I saw in the video. I did not think there was a considerable decline in Mexican migration to the US. As learned, due to much lower birth rates in Mexico, higher alert patrol along the borders and the agave product boom, there is actually a decrease in Mexicans crossing into the US. As heard in the video Mexicans do not still feel that the America is a great opportunity, therefore they do not want to leave their families, spend the money to get to the US only to find that due to the US recession, jobs are very scarce.  Elizabeth Allen


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Michelle Carvajal's comment, September 20, 2012 4:18 PM
I agree with what you say about the video Elizabeth. I feel like people are unaware of the patterns now in immigration of people back to their native lands. Sadly our economy has forced people to go back wherever they may be from. Can you imagine what would happen if the economy got better and they would try to get back in?
Ashley Raposo's curator insight, December 18, 2013 11:46 PM

This short video shows the new era of less and less Mexicans illegally going to the USA. The Mexicans now staying at home find opportunities aren't found in the US anymore. The people seem happier to be with their families and raising their children in the Mexican identity.

Cam E's curator insight, February 4, 11:55 AM

I enjoy stories like this, because it demonstrates people willing to fight for their home. Many interesting ideas lie behind stories such as this one, but what I find especially intriguing is the dynamics of money in relation to these small rural villages. Money and "income" drives our current economic positions, but there are some places which were left behind and have none of the jobs we in the first world would traditionally think of. They had to either subside off their own products through farming, or trade their livelyhood for a small amount of money. Put simply, money is necessary for a so called "modern" existence, but not necessary for survival. These villagers are working for their own future in their home country now though, while it may not be necessarily profitable in the short term, it will pay off for their children in the long term.

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Turbulence on the Mekong River

Turbulence on the Mekong River | Geography 400 at ric | Scoop.it
The Mekong River was once a wild and primitive backwater. Today, growing demands for electricity and rapid economic growth are changing the character of what is the world's 12th-longest river.

 

Economic progress for some often entails job loss and environmental degradation for others.  The once isolated and remote Mekong is experiences some impacts of globalization with residents having mixed feelings about the prospects. 

 

The technological resources from the Mekong River are needed to keep up with population demands suchs as electricity.  However in building dams, the wildlife and naturalness on the river is being stolen.  Farmers and fishermen fear that fish will be destroyed and blocked by the dams.  They are already noticing effects from upstream- the work China has done on the river is effecting Laos' societies.  Elizabeth Allen


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Michelle Carvajal's curator insight, December 11, 2012 9:04 PM

There must be a better way to transport items and in return save the Mekong river from being degredated. Technological innovations are affecting the life in the river as local fishermen are seeing less and less fish traveling in the river. This is impacting them in the sense that they use these fish for their survival as well as for selling. They fear that in building dams and creating advanced roads over the Mekong will change their enviroment altogether and will hinder their livelihood. This is a beautiful river and I personally feel there could be a better way but there is always something sacrficed when the government choses a location to build on. - M. Carvajal

Emma Lafleur's curator insight, April 30, 2013 8:03 PM

It seems to be a theme that across the bored, people are building things that directly and negatively impact the environment and the local people. There are always two sides to the problem. On one hand, the dam can help with the development of Laos because it will bring in money, but it will also destroy the fish population and therefore many fishermen will lose their jobs and people will lose a food source. It is a difficult problem because Laos needs money because there is a lot of poverty in this rural country and the fishermen do not add a whole lot to the economy, but the people need a way to survive and make money for their families as well. It's a problem that I think will be around for generation to come.

Al Picozzi's curator insight, November 26, 2013 11:35 AM

Seems the price of modernizing will be the local economy that as existed here for centuries.  It is not a small industy either, it is according to the report a billion dollar fishing industry.  However with a growing population and a demand for electricity the river is the perfect source for this power.  This globalization, like all globalization, will help some and will hurt some.  What you have to ask yourself is will it help more than it hurts?  Will it help in the long run, over time?  For everyone involoved in globalization these answeres are never the same everywhere.

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Tajik Remittances From Russia up 30%

Tajik Remittances From Russia up 30% | Geography 400 at ric | Scoop.it
Tajik migrants working in Russia sent to $2.96 billion in remittances to their families in Tajikistan in 2011, over 30 percent more than the previous year, National Bank Deputy Chairman Malokhat Kholikzoda said on Thursday.

 

The higher the national dependence on remittances, the worse off the country is essentially at being economically independent and viable. 

 

Yes the remittance work will hurt Tajikstan's chances of economic success. But, the workers have to provide for their families. The workers need to self-preserve, with that in mind, it is natural for them  not be concerned about their home country's economics. With more than half of the population below poverty level, I doubt this labor pattern will change soon.

Elizabeth Allen


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cookiesrgreat's comment, March 13, 2012 9:10 AM
Ots hard to imagine how Tajikistan can survive with their work force living otside the country
Derek Ethier's comment, October 18, 2012 1:23 AM
Tajikstan's plight symbolizes the problems most former Soviet Republics face in a post Soviet world. Almost all of these nations have an enormous reliance upon Russia in their day to day activities. As this article states, over $2.96 billion have been sent to Tajikstan from Tajiks working in Russia. Tajikstan's economy is going to tank if it's citizens continue to be so reliant on Russia.
Elizabeth Allen's comment, December 6, 2012 11:03 PM
Yes the remittance work will hurt Tajikstan's chances of economic success. But, the workers have to provide for their families. The workers need to self-preserve, with that in mind, it is natural for them not be concerned about their home country's economics.
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Globalization, Corporations and Franchises

Globalization, Corporations and Franchises | Geography 400 at ric | Scoop.it

McDonald's and Starbucks can be seen as emblematic of the forces of globalization and the 'victors' of process as forcefully displayed in this graphic.  The local distinctive menu (not to mention the chef with a flair) typically loses out to the replicable, standardized and the familiar.  How come?  When is this not the case?  How does this change economics or culture? As a counter-point to globalization benefiting the chains, see how 'Yelp!' is reducing chains market share at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/ezra-klein/post/how-yelp-is-killing-chain-restaurants/2011/10/03/gIQAokJvHL_blog.html

 

 

Many compnaies have to adapt to different cultures. Globalization is part of going outside the norm. Or what is considered the norm in one country is far different than the norm of another.  For business' to strive they have to satisfy the needs of the consumers.  Elizabeth Allen


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Elizabeth Allen's comment, November 16, 2012 5:08 PM
Many compnaies have to adapt to different cultures. Globalization is part of going outside the norm. Or what is considered the norm in one country is far different than the norm of another.
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Piracy Backlash

Piracy Backlash | Geography 400 at ric | Scoop.it
Abshir Boyah, a pirate who says he has hijacked more than 25 ships off the coast of Somalia, says he will give up this career if certain terms are met.

 

What economic, cultural and political circumstances in the 21st century would allow for piracy to exist?  What are the impacts of piracy on Somalia?  

 

The concept of piracy is a scary one. Their illegal ways cause corruption throughout their society. However, it seems as if they do not have much choice. Yes, it is morally wrong, but look at the money they are making. The prirates are willing to cease illegal activity if their demands are met. Their demands are not out of the ordinary-- they want their oceans protected from toxic waste, job creations, and a fair government. Somalia has a long road ahead of them to acheive any sort of unity.  Elizabeth Allen


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Elizabeth Allen's comment, November 7, 2012 10:57 AM
The concept of piracy is a scary one. Their illegal ways cause corruption throughout their society. However, it seems as if they do not have much choice. Yes, it is morally wrong, but look at the money they are making. The prirates are willing to cease illegal activity if their demands are met. Their demands are not out of the ordinary-- they want their oceans protected from toxic waste, job creations, and a fair government. Somalia has a long road ahead of them to acheive any sort of unity.
James Good's comment, April 19, 2013 8:14 PM
Piracy is continuing to grow in Somalia because the country has adopted the practice as a part of their culture. Although many of the Somalian people oppose piracy, there are a large number of people who are supporting it and benefiting from it. For many of these people, pirating money is the only opportunity they have to make money. Many of them seek alternatives and wish to end their criminal practices but there is nothing else they can do. Unfortunately, pirates in Somalia have labelled their country with a negative stereotype. Whenever people think of Somalia, they will think of the Somalian pirates and the trouble that they have caused for foreign ships.
Al Picozzi's curator insight, October 28, 2013 11:41 PM

Much like the piracy in the Caribbean in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries it is done in order to gain wealth and by the looks of it, fame.  They are called Pirate Kings in the video by the New York Times.  Again much like the pirate kings of the Caribbean.  Here however they are willing to give it up in order to better their country with the help of the internation community, the pirates of the Caribbean didn't have a country and they liked it that way.  However, it was tried in the early 1990's to help allievate the food and humanitarian suffering.  However the warlords of the time, especailly Aideed, saw their power, as well as their money, disappearing, so they fought this relief effort and kept Somalia in the dangerous situation it is in today.  So you have to ask the question: Can you take the pirates seriously that they want to change??  Past history says no.

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Brazilian Ethanol

Brazilian Ethanol | Geography 400 at ric | Scoop.it

"Distilling ethanol from tropical sugarcane takes less land and uses less fossil fuel than starting with corn grown in temperate climes. That makes Brazilian ethanol, unlike the pampered and grotesquely wasteful American version, competitive with hydrocarbons and genuinely good for the environment." 

 

Although ethanol is working well for Brazil, there is a growing literature supporting the idea that wide-scale ethanol production is not sustainable or environmentally beneficial.  This is a great example to demonstrate that economic and environmental policies are locally dependent on geographic factors and are not universally transferable.  For a simple explanation of the differences in the economic and environmental differences in the production of sugar and corn-based ethanol, see: http://cei.org/studies-issue-analysis/brazilian-sugarcane-ethanol-experience  

 

Interesting information. Like anything the pros and cons need to be weighed by the experts. Everyone would love a low price alternative for fuel, but the environmental risks may be too high. Elizabeth Allen


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Al Picozzi's curator insight, October 1, 2013 1:28 PM

Great idea here.  i know that using corn is much more expensive than sugar, nut imagine the tade we can get with Brazil if we imprt more sugan ans then use it for gas.  It will probably still be cheaper than the regular gas, and the corn ethanol.  In the long run if this is used, along with the shale oil depositis the US has, we can reduce our dependance on oil from areas like the middle east and other countries which in turn can create many jobs here in the US.

Ryan Amado's curator insight, December 11, 2013 1:27 AM

Here we have just one example of how technological advances have helped solve some of our world's energy problems.  Ethanol is slowly becoming a popular commodity.  However, until ethanol can be used in every single vehicle, it will not overtake traditional gasoline, and gas prices will continue to be high.  Because these hybrid vehciles are becoming more and more popular, less gas is being bought, and us non-hybrid users are paying the price for it.  This is a good step in the right direction, but the process needs to move faster if we are truely going to all benefit from the use of these alternative fuels.  

Jess Deady's curator insight, April 24, 5:03 PM

Difference in economical and ecological factors have everything to do with what Brazil is doing with ethanol. Since ethanol in Brazil is simpler and easier to obtain, American ethanol is highly useless and apparently not worth the money.