Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Winning International Competition

Hey, look! According to reporting in the New York Times and the Washington Post, some jobs are coming back from China. I wonder why that is.

The NYT piece by Hiroko Tabuchi focuses on the textile industry. Currently some Chinese companies are opening plants in the American South; the piece is anchored by a look at a worker from the Chinese plant training American workers to do her job in a highly automated plant that may use as few as 500 workers.

Why is this happening? Are the heads of these corporations saying, "Wow! Now that a generation of workers have grown up with the Common Core and had their educational achievement certified by high stakes standardized tests, we totally want to come employ these workers who are clearly bastions of international competitiveness." Or perhaps the bosses are saying, "These Chinese workers just don't have the deep level of educational achievement that

Well, no. They're not. From Ana Swenson's piece in the Washington Post:

Even when adjusted for productivity, Chinese manufacturing wages have risen by 187 percent over the decade. Industrial electricity costs have grown 66 percent, while natural gas costs are up 138 percent.
In the same time frame, U.S. wages have risen only 27 percent, while natural gas costs have fallen 25 percent, according to Boston Consulting.

Yes, shockingly, the international competition is about what it's always been about-- money. Having textiles manufactured in China by workers who work for peanuts in the cheapest of manufacturing conditions used to be the winning formula. Now Chinese want more pay, and demand has pushed up the cost of running manufacturing facilities.

Competing for those jobs is not about having the best public school educational standards. It has never been about that. It's about mustering a competent work force that will work cheap in cheap conditions. As both stories note, the textile plants opening do not represent a sudden change and surge. But they do represent examples of how the international competition for jobs will be won-- and it won't be by jamming our students through a one-size-fits-all, test-driven system based on "college and career ready" standards.

1 comment:

  1. Some good old fashioned Teddy Roosevelt trust busting would have prevented this mess in the first place. International business and free flowing capital that eludes boundaries just brings everyone down to the lowest common denominator. The purveyors of greed just can not hide as easily now. Tax them, if they leave turn their facilities over to the employees, (a good use of imminent domain) because those facilities were likely subsidized by the public, then place tariffs on the would be cheap imports. We once knew this, we hopefully will rediscover these things before we are all unemployed.