Tag Archives: business

Cheap goods from foreign companies

Yesterday I bought some winter flannelette pyjamas for only $20 – except they were on special, so they were only $16.

I’d been planning to make some myself, if I ever got around to it. But buying them for only $16 was obviously the better option. It would have cost me nearly that much to get all the materials (fabric, elastic, buttons), and that’s without factoring in the cost of my time – which I usually don’t bother to factor in, but I could do it for the purposes of this blog post… in which case those hypothetical homemade pyjamas would be absolutely priceless. Obviously.

The thing is, the pyjamas I bought yesterday were made in Bangladesh. I don’t know the specifics of working conditions there or the trade practices of a department store like T-rg-t, but, taking a wild guess, I bet there’s a good chance the worker who made my pyjamas can’t afford to buy them herself and probably doesn’t have much time left over for sleeping anyway.

I don’t want to exploit people like her, but what is the better thing to do: to buy the pyjamas at a low cost (I couldn’t afford to buy them otherwise) or to not buy them? Or is there another option I haven’t thought of?

I don’t know. It’s just something I was wondering about.

Plus, I was wondering about it because the people who recently made a fuss about Apple’s products being made in China apparently didn’t think to mention that probably all of the things we buy are made as cheaply as possible, meaning they are made where the production costs are lowest, meaning that lots of them are made in third-world countries, and if the production costs in one country rise (through improvements in labour conditions or what-not), production moves to a cheaper country instead.

And even the things made in Australia are now often produced by foreign-owned companies, and there are more of them all the time. Yesterday there was a sign in the supermarket saying that a well-known company which sells sultanas and other dried fruit has been taken over and their product packaging will be changed to remove the Australian-made-and-owned sign. Another one bites the dust.

There’s a significant difference in the prices between the foreign-owned products and the smaller Australian competitors. Here are three jars of strawberry jam I bought yesterday:
– foreign-owned, 600g: $4.17
– Australian-owned, 285g: $4.29
– Australian-owned, 300g: $3.99 (on special)

I don’t want all Australian companies to be foreign-owned, but that’s the way it’s going. It’s a new world of empires. Countries used to be taken over by people arriving in boats and declaring a new name for the nation. Now they arrive in shareholder letters with offers to buy out the company, and they only change the name of the company if they don’t want to use the old branding any more.

I guess. I don’t know enough about all this to know what I’m talking about. I just wish it was different. And I’m part of it, but I don’t know what it is I should be doing.

Made in Elsewhere

Lately I’ve seen a few articles about outsourcing – companies sending work overseas to countries where labour and materials are cheaper, and supplies are closer. Apple is the company getting the publicity and criticism at the moment (and rightly so, I think: its latest profit is so massive it’s obscene). But probably all the major companies are using similar tactics, just with varying degrees of success or aggressiveness. If we were to start boycotting products made cheaply overseas, we wouldn’t have much stuff left to use.

Tonight I went through the house and made a list of products and where they were made. It included anything and everything I could find that had a “Made in…” note on it. I just wanted to see where things came from. By the time I’d listed 100 items it was getting hard to find more, so that’s where I stopped the list.

The most unexpected origin was Haiti (for a t-shirt my sister’s family gave me for Christmas), and the one that was no surprise at all was China.

Country of manufacture:
China: 32
Australia: 31
Thailand: 7
New Zealand: 4
USA: 4
India: 3
Taiwan: 3
Indonesia: 2
Malaysia: 2
France: 2
Brazil: 2
Canada: 1
Germany: 1
Haiti: 1
Italy: 1
Japan: 1
Korea: 1
Sri Lanka: 1
UK: 1
Total number of items: 100

I guess I should make a point now we’re here at the end of the post, but I don’t have one. I had some thoughts, they were all messy, and now they’re gone.