Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Photo of the Day--February 23, 2012

Guangdong Province has been known as the "workshop of the world" for the last few decades, and for good reason. This behemoth of a province, with its 104 million inhabitants, was responsible for over 1/3 of China's exports up until a few years ago, when the cities around Shanghai began to grow in importance due to the Chinese government's efforts to make Shanghai the "Crown Jewel of the New China", and also due to rising labor costs in Guangdong. So basically, what I'm trying to say, is that odds are many things that you've bought in your life originated right here in Guangdong Province, in one of its innumerable factories.

And yet, unless your name is Griffin Curcio or Dalton Grambo, if you're reading this blog you probably haven't been to one of these factories, seen photos of one, or heard much about them. My company's factory is probably on the smaller end of the scale of Chinese factories--we employ between 500 and 700 factory workers, depending on time of year, and we occupy 3 pretty damned huge factory buildings in an industrial park outside of Shenzhen, in an area called Guangming New Area.

So what is life like in these factories, you ask? Well, it's interesting, that's for sure. I've really only noticed one glaring safety issue, that being the fact that in the hazardous painting room,there are a lot of signs showing people with big sort of like haz-mat masks on. I don't speak good Chinese, but I have to assume those signs indicate that not wearing a mask in these rooms could lead to death. That, and the fact that upon walking into the room, you're hit instantly with the smell of paint, and with an infinite number of infinitely small particles floating through the hazy air. So obviously, a place where masks are pretty necessary. ~25% of the people in there don't wear them. Oh god....

The factory workers are, for the most part, housed in dormitories on the factory property. These dorms are not luxurious. There are about 8 people to a dorm, and the conditions are a little bit cramped. Though overall, it's definitely not anywhere near as iffy as I was expecting. The factory is running 24 hours per day, 6 days per week--there are several shifts so there are always people in the factory working, though during daytime hours the number of workers is considerably higher than in the evening. The workers are also entitled to ridiculously cheap meals. The lunch served at the factory costs the line workers 1 yuan, and the administrative workers 4 yuan. 1 yuan=~$0.16, 4 yuan=~$0.66. So a 16 cent lunch if you're a line worker. The meals I've had at the factory are actually not that bad--certainly not gourmet, but decently palatable. Usually they consist of like 5 different dishes, usually 2 vegetable, 1 tofu, 1 pork, and 1 rice. I've noticed something fairly interesting--the workers all bring their own metal bowls. It's kind of cool, just seeing everyone after lunch washing out their metal bowl and putting it in this large metal bowl holding cabinet thing in the factory mess hall. And with that, the photo of the day:

And there you have it. Another pretty crappy photo. However, should be noted that I was at the office again quite late yesterday, and afterwards went out to a bar to meet a couple of businesspeople working in SZ, so really didn't have a whole lot of time to take a decent photo. HOWEVER, I do think that this photo does at least have some level of character. As I'm quite sure most of you have guessed, this is the cabinet for people's steel bowls. I think that in theory, it should be closed for a decent amount of time per day, and the thing probably "bathes" those bowls in UV light or something to disinfect them, but the fact is, in theory, fire extinguisher is spelled as such, but the sign immediately next to that cabinet spells it as "Extinouhier". Pretty sure that's not French, it's just wrong.

As far as factory wages are concerned, I don't know exactly what the wages are, but I'm pretty sure that for the more skilled positions, monthly salary is somewhere in the 3,000RMB per month range (about $500US). For very unskilled positions, I think it's more like <2,400RMB per month ($400). Again, estimates. The better-paid administrative people actually make pretty good money, I have no idea how much, but I know that when I went to the US with mad-dog James (a legendary 40-something Chinese man who I'm pretty sure has a handful of 20-something girlfriends), he bought an unlocked iPhone 4S...a $700US investment. He's sort of like the head of R&D, so it's very possible that he's on close to what I'm on, if not a bit more. It should be noted, he speaks absolutely 0 words of English. Which is why it was even more hilarious in the US when Jacky (my immediate boss, who speaks very good English) and I would be speaking with a customer and just be like... "Where did James go?" "Well, he can't get very far, he can't even say hello". This would inevitably lead to us finding him just wandering around some random parking lot or something in amazement, just having a great time wandering around. Legend.

Anyway, so I understand this blog post has been pretty fragmented, I've been writing it over the course of several hours during the morning between assorted work tasks (incidentally, I interviewed 2 people today for jobs within the the hell I have the authority or qualifications to do that, I have no idea). So for that, I apologize, but again, it's not as though anyone's forcing you to read it, I'm just spamming the hell out of Facebook! So that's about all for today, see you all tomorrow :-D

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