Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Kneejerk economics

Last weekend's Sunday Mail had a report into China's "iPod sweatshops" where the music player is assembled by a workforce who are each paid £54 per month (£648 per year) for working a 15 hour day. "Shock horror!" cries the Mail (and Boing Boing and MacWorld).

According to this article (which I have no way of verifying either) the average urban salary in China is £1000 per year and the average rural salary is closer to £300 per annum (for equivalent or longer working hours). In the United Kingdom the average salary is £22 000 per year but if the average factory worker earns about £7 per hour and works for the average manufacturing labour hours per annum (1856 hours per year) their annual salary would be £14 848 i.e. roughly comparable in terms of average salary with the iPod makers.

Whilst I grant you that the hours worked are in no way comparable with the UK, and I make no claims as to the moral rights or wrongs of this situation, it still annoys me when statistics are used out of context as it tells us nothing. Everything is relative especially salaries and cost of living, that's why all these Daily Mail readers can marvel and tell their friends how cheap it was to go on holiday in blah-blah where beer only costs a few pence and the hotels are soooo cheap not to mention the fact that they'd all be complaining like hell if their iPods cost £500.


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