Exploiting Foreign Labor

In Mauritania, the 5-man detachment of Marines guarding the US Embassy worked about 70 hours a week and thus we didn’t feel like cooking for ourselves.

So, we employed Mohammed. He was paid $200/month, translating to about $1 per hour. He also kept up the common areas of the house.

On that so-called “slave wage”, he purchased land, hired an architect, and was having a two story house built with indoor plumbing. This also meant that his daughter could go to school instead of working or being married off at a young age.

If we’d been forced to pay him even $2 per hour, we simply would not have employed him. The time cost of cooking for ourselves would have been deemed less than the financial cost of employing Mohammed. We would have ceased being lazy and cooked for ourselves. His daughter would likely be less educated, the architect would never have been hired, and those construction workers would never have had that employment. It is also worth noting that, in his 50s, Mohammed was approaching his life expectancy in that countryemployment translates into access to semi-modern health-care.

Not that I am defending Nike workers that are paid less than $1 per hour in China — in order to do that, I would have to at least know how much a loaf of bread costs at the grocery store closest to that factory. I don’t have any idea what the costs of living are in the various cities containing Nike factories in China, so I do not have enough information to pass judgment either way.

Something to consider when we arbitrarily condemn US companies that outsource to cut costs.

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Exploiting Foreign Labor

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