Robert J. S. Ross

Workers’ Wages in China and Bangladesh

Author’s note:  this letter made the NYT website, but not the grown-up newspaper. link »

July 23, 2010
Workers’ Wages in China and Bangladesh
To the Editor:
Re “As Labor Costs Rise in China, Textile Jobs Shift Elsewhere” (front page, July 17):

We are seeing the positive side of Chinese factory workers’ recent revolts.

What is now becoming clear is that Chinese workers’ successful demands have given workers across the world room for hope. Bangladeshi workers are demanding higher wages, too.

Bangladeshi employers have long kept wages down by threatening workers with loss of employment because of their competition with China. But now Chinese raises can make some room for workers’ demands elsewhere, and they put some pressure on employers as well. A doubling of wages might yield 5 percent price increases here — not bad after years of price declines.

Bangladesh can learn from China in this decade and the United States in the 1930s: boosting their own workers’ buying power is the path to growth and recovery.

Robert J. S. Ross
Worcester, Mass., July 21, 2010

The writer is a professor of sociology at Clark University and the author of “Slaves to Fashion: Poverty and Abuse in the New Sweatshops.”