The constant scrutiny afforded the current generation of technology users is truly unprecedented. The Arab Spring, Moscow, Occupy Wall Street and the organization of the aforementioned is something unseen before – technology has given birth to a global police force/media enterprise – we’re policing the police. And so it is, that even a country with a questionable human rights record like China, is bowing to international pressure, and changing for the better.
Foxconn in China, one of the main suppliers of computer parts to Apple, has had over a year of bad press: suicides at their headquarters, workers strikes and the question of dodgy staff conditions have led to a global spotlight that has seen a dramatic volte-face in workers’ wages in the last two weeks, by a whopping 25%. Is this a conscience at work, or Apple diverting a PR nightmare? Perhaps both. But, the era of cheap, cheap, cheap at all costs is over – Fairtrade is more than a middle class notion now, it’s something that consumers expect. Or do they?
In a recent article in the Guardian newspaper, about the Foxconn incidents, an economist at MIT, David Autor, believes there still remains a double standard with consumers, “As nations develop, wages rise and life theoretically gets better for everyone…but in China, for that change to be permanent, consumers have to be willing to bear the consequences. When people read about bad Chinese factories in the paper, they might have a moment of outrage. But then they go to Amazon and are as ruthless as ever about paying the lowest prices.”
Nonetheless, positive changes are occurring, and as long as transparency becomes more prevalent – from workers’ rights, to why we are suddenly paying more for products connected to those rights – things can only get better. After all, isn’t that the crux of the free market ideal anyway?