Monday, May 3, 2010

China Blue

Today in my introductory sociology class, we finished a documentary called China Blue. The documentary chronicles the new life of a 17-year-old jeans factory worker, Jasmine Lee. Jasmine moves from her village in  to work at a denim factory in the city. She works nearly 18 hours a day, sometimes even working overnight to finish orders before shipping deadlines, without any overtime. Jasmine is a thread cutter, and clips loose thread from finished jeans before they are shipped. She gets paid about half a yuan, or about 6 cents, per pair of jeans that she finishes.

They live crowded together in cement factory dormitories where water has to be carried upstairs in buckets. Their meals and rent are deducted from their wages, which amount to less than a dollar a day. Most of the jeans they make in the factory are purchased by retailers in the U.S. and other countries. CHINA BLUE takes viewers inside a blue jeans factory in southern China, where teenage workers struggle to survive harsh working conditions. Providing perspectives from both the top and bottom levels of the factory’s hierarchy, the film looks at complex issues of globalization from the human level.
-The Synopsis on PBS's website

Jeans are considered a very everyday commodity for most people, and as a college student I wear jeans or denim in some form nearly everyday. It was heartbreaking to see how much time and effort goes behind one pair on jeans, and how poorly the workers that labour behind our jeans get treated and payed. In the documentary, Jasmine says that they are given midday meals by the factory and she had thought that they are free, but it turns out that they are deducted from their wages. All the workers get fined for each minute that they are late to work. Many new workers like Jasmine Lee don't get their first month wages until much later (and sometimes never) as an incentive to continue working at the factory.

The documentary is about an hour and 25 minutes long, and at the end you read that in the time it took to watch the documentary, Jasmine Lee and her friends prepared 15 pairs of jeans for shipping. Together, they only made $1.45.

Here's the website where you can read more about China Blue.

 Read more about China's labor laws and the jeans business in China.

I hope that watching this documentary will make us all appreciate all that we have, and just how much we take for granted.

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