Friday, December 5, 2008

Leslie T. Chang

From the BookBrowse Q & A with Leslie T. Chang, author of Factory Girls: From Village to City in a Changing China:

There's been a lot written in recent years on the sweatshop conditions inside Chinese factories. Yet in Factory Girls, you describe a job on the assembly line in terms of adventure, opportunity, even liberation. Doesn't this contradict the reality of factory life?

Certainly conditions in the factories are tough. Most of the young women I got to know while researching this book worked thirteen hours a day, seven days a week when they first started out. Their wages were often late; many had no idea how much they would be paid from month to month, because the factory charged fees for all sorts of things over which they had no control. But you have to remember that the world looks very different when you're coming from a Chinese farming village. What we think of as miserable living conditions—bad food, tedious labor, living twelve or fifteen to a room—are a given to these workers. Their response is usually not to complain or protest, as a typical American might, but to look for any slight advantage that would lead to an improvement in their situations. I think that's the reason you see a lot less protest in these factories than you might expect. These workers are constantly calculating what is in their own best interest. Usually they decide that talking a boss into giving them a raise or jumping to a different job is a better option than challenging the factory directly.
Read the complete Q & A.

--Marshal Zeringue