Consumerism – bad for somebody else’s health

A sobering piece by Johann Hari in today’s Independent, exposing the cost of consumerism at the sharp end.

It exposes the horrific conditions under which Chinese workers labour to produce the mechanical toys that Western consumers enjoy – an environment in which it is estimated that 600,000 people per year die of overwork.  Hari points to the fact that wages have fallen as a proportion of GDP in China every year from 1983 to 2005; sobering indeed.

But it also shows how Chinese workers are fighting back, through organising into trade unions.  The Chinese authorities have been forced into making concessions, proposing to allow limited trade union rights – but Western companies are lobbying hard to prevent this.

We in the West must recognise that this is our struggle too – not just because we consume the products that are produced by this exploitation, but because, crucially, the organisations that are resisting change are here in the West.  This is not about China; it’s about capitalism.

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