3Zhang Lijia by Fantake via Flickr

Former rocket factory worker Zhang Lijia compares in the New York Times her working life in Nanjing in the 1980s with todays life at the new factories of Foxconn and Honda.

People often ask me if things have improved. It’s hard to say. There are still rigorous rules and restrictions. Foxconn workers are allowed only a few minutes for toilet breaks and are barely permitted to talk to their colleagues. To keep the production line running, they have to work 12-hour shifts, leaving hardly any time to use amenities at the plant…

Compared with their predecessors, the new generation of workers are better educated; they are more worldly, savvy with the Internet, and have higher expectations from life. These workers, more aware of their rights, are no longer willing to be treated like machines. It was not entirely accidental that the Honda strikes took place when the spate of suicides at Foxconn sent shock waves across the factory floors in China.

As someone who have endured the demoralizing existence at a factory, I know how these protesting workers feel. Their motivation may be economical, but in a broad sense, they are also demanding to be respected as human beings.

More comments at the New York Times


Zhang Lijia is a speaker at the China Speakers Bureau. When you need her at your conference or meeting, do get in touch.
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