Chao, aged 12, worships his iPad. He has masses of games to choose from; unconditionally spoilt for choice. He plays temple run as if he were possessed. For him it is compulsory to download the latest apps and be more technically savy than his friends at school. On the other hand, Heng who is also 12 years old works 60 hours a week with $1 to $2 overtime pay per hour and receives constant abuse both verbally and physically for polishing the touchscreens of iPads all day. He has to use a chemical n-hexane which in 2011 poisoned 140 child students! Both boys live in China, but both boys have received opposing fruits of globalisation; one sweet, one bitter.
Due to its emerging market China is the largest recipient of foreign direct investment in the developing world. Whilst multinational corporations benefit from low costs of capital and production they (who also claim to have zero tolerance in supporting child labour) are exploiting the human and labour rights of Chinese Children; creating a generation of precariats. Precariats are a socio-economic group who receive limited social benefits and statutory entitlements; bearing more risks. Companies such as Apple pay wages way below the legal minimum wage and reduce costs further by providing extremely poor living and working conditions to their employees. In 2013, investigations were carried out into the factories that produce Apple products in China and found more than 10,000 under age students had been hired forcefully referring to them as ‘interns’ who were actually blackmailed into the jobs. The students were threatened that if they refused to participate their educational qualifications would be withdrawn.
At the same time, many Westerners believe that such factories are opportunities that lift people out of poverty. Poverty being the utmost solitary factor responsible for children moving into the workplace, instead of getting involved in stealing, begging and the black market it is preferred for them to work in factories of international corporations. How justifiable is this theory? Is it really better for Chinese children to be occupied in precarious employment than criminalities and corruptions?
Nevertheless, workers like Heng occupied in unskilled work are bound to lose motivation and lose any prospects of occupational promotion. They will experience increased insecurity and inequality in the long run whilst becoming socially isolated and physically impaired; their psychological health will deteriorate due to monotonous work and high pressure surroundings. Therefore, it is imperative that consumers around the globe stand up for these abuses which are being completely disregarded and demand fair labour and decent work in order for Chinese children to be saved from a future of precarity.