The order of things


China has become the world’s manufacturing hub, made popular to foreign companies by low wages due to the country’s predominantly low cost of living- so low that, as is oft cited, the Chinese workers typically cannot afford the products they are making.

And, when China’s population does achieve a better level of living more approximating the Western World, there’s always Vietnam, or some other “poor” country that these businesses can run to.

But, what happens when there are no cheap options left?

How long can this dichotomy last?

Just asking.



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I’m in Japan now, Chinese tourists everywhere. I think they are doing just fine.

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Africa? South America? The Philippines? Even Mexico. There are many low income countries which could host 1st world manufacturing plants.

And by the time there aren’t A.I. automated plants will be in widespread use.

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And they say slavery was abolished!

Not sure who is saying that but modern slavery is a real problem.


It’s the nature of capitalism for people to direct both their labour and their capital to where they can get the best price.

As China’s standard of living increases and its people demand more pay for their labour, another region will stick its hand up and do it for a dollar cheaper.

So on and so forth as the capitalist cycle continues. There’s always going to be someone who will do it cheaper.


Shame about the planet ! :slight_smile:

Yep, as I wrote the question, I realised as we lose more and more skilled jobs here… Australia’s turn will come.

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I don’t think we’re losing more jobs, it’s more so the insidious use of individual contracts and ongoing wage cuts in this country. It’s the rise of permanent temporary workers and its been out of control for about 15 years now.


I think the answer is to tax the large companies (a lot - no more double Dutch sandwich if they want to operate in Australia) and also get that money back to people in the form of education, medical and other socially responsible projects. and if they (the large companies) say well we won’t deal with Australia then my answer is good! It will open up opportunities for local development - we used to have a manufacturing base and automotive skill set it’s been sold off. The industry I used to work for has decreased by about 40 - 50 % in the last 10 years where has it all gone? To overseas and to tech companies.

We need someone with political insight and vision to start wrestling the control of our society back to groups that have social well being as there primary focus - not pure financial gain.

End rant

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The company I work for makes kids bags and accessories. The top selling bag costs around $14 to manufacture in China (fabric, printing, laminating, cut n sew + freight to AU). The retail price is $70. (Most of the bags are sold via wholesalers, so no, we don’t make $54 per bag…)

If we made them in Australia, the cost price would be at least $10 more, because Aussie workers need to be paid more than Chinese workers. And that’s using Chinese workers who are certified not to be slaves.

Add $10 to the production cost, and our backpack would have to retail @ $120… for a kids backpack…

So - I get that we simply cannot make these things locally. The minimum wage wont allow it, when compared with countries where you can pay the workforce so much less than what you have to pay our workforce.

Going back to my original question/thoughts… our current way of life - in the Western world - is dependent on a lower subset of humans existing somewhere, to allow us to maintain the life that we’ve become accustom to. But ultimately - where does it leave us? Heading for decline…

Well the traditional answer is to increase automation but the final result of that i suspect is an underclass of people with no employable skills (most people simply cannot, no matter how well trained create original content or research and that’s really the only things that can’t be automated… and honestly I’m not sure about those).

A society with a universal stipend and 99% automation might work… but I suspect a more dystopian outcome is likelier.

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We end up with all of the wealth held by fewer and fewer people - and less people able to afford to buy the products… So how could that benefit anyone… except those good at original content / research skills…

Gene Roddenbury’s society where money was no longer “a thing” looked wonderful, but I can’t perceive how it could ever work.

That’s what a ‘Universal Stipend’ is supposed to address but I don’t trust the people with the power to implement it fairly and I suspect it would end up at little better than subsistence level.

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Fits this thread - The Order of Things - so I’m gonna tack this on here rather than go anew…

I recently had to read a book to my kids at bedtime called “Pancakes, Pancakes!” by Eric Carle (you know - writer of the Hungry Caterpillar).

It is about a boy who wakes up in the mood for pancakes - except by the looks he’s living at the turn of the 20th century. In order to make the lovely breakfast, he has to reap some wheat, thresh it, have it ground into flower, milk the cow, harass the chooks for an egg, and go down to the cellar to get some jam. (So the poor boy is likely having pancakes for lunch, rather than breakfast.)

Thankfully these days, when I want to make pancakes for the rugrats, all I need to do is go to the supermarket and buy a plastic bag/bottle full of pre-prepared pancake mix, a plastic bottle full of milk, and a cardboard box containing eggs. If I was clever, I told the kids what day I was making the pancakes (Sunday works well), and had most of the items sitting in my magic cold box, which is made out of metals, plastics, and a few gasses.

Except… oh, wait - plastic has found its way into the Mariana freak’n Trench! Oh, and - according to recent research - our own digestive systems, too! (As if polluting the deepest part of the ocean wasn’t bad enough - now, it’s personal.)

All good - we just need to join the “Nude Food” movement. Stop buying everything in plastic. Can’t be that hard, right?

(Side Note - my boss declared that she has “a license to print money” thanks to the nude food for school kids movement, after she discovered how popular the “bento box” has become. Over 50,000 units sold per year, with sales only continuing to increase. She happily continues to buy massive rolls of bubble-wrap however, rather than invest $6k in a machine that would allow her to recycle cardboard into a bubble-wrap alternative…)

But… Whilst it was all good and well for my grandparents to make most of their meals from scratch (they had a large veggie patch, and chooks in their large back yard), our modern standard of living tends to dictate that 1 wage per household is not enough. My grandmother was far from “just a housewife” (though when I think of her, typically she was wearing an apron, in the kitchen), but the roles she took on typically were not paid, and she did spend a lot of time in the kitchen making food… That’s a “luxury” that my wife and I can’t afford if we also want a house to live in with heating and cooling, a safe & reliable car (and one not so safe nor reliable vehicle), 2 iPhones, 3 iPads, and shoes that don’t fall apart within a 10 week school term.

As dictated by Victorian legislature (and other jurisdictions Australia wide), we have recently changed from single-use plastic bags to more durable “multi use” bags for shopping, but also in our house - purchased our own reusable bags for the fresh fruit-n-veg we buy at Woolies (as apparently the legislation still allows Woolies/etc to continue with single-use plastic bags in that department). We also now separate “soft plastics” that our council can’t recycle, and return them to the “Redcycle” collection bins, rather than going to landfill. But this is exactly what has sparked all of the above…

Every week we would easily fill at least 1 bag full of “soft plastic”. Kids snack packets, meat tray seals, pasta packaging, lolly wrappers - it doesn’t stop. And whilst they are now being recycled into things like plastic seats, how long will it be before that industry too suffers the plight of the wider recycling industry - where they are unable to keep up with supply, nor find markets to sell their processed resources?

(And, on another quick side note - Don’t recycle your cash-register receipts. Most of them these days are BPA plastic impregnated, so you will contaminate the recycled paper. Also, don’t compost them, or you’ll have BPA in your compost. Also don’t burn them - the BPA goes airborne. Landfill is the “safest” option… At least then it’s just another toxin in an already toxic, semi-contained area.)

This brings us back to Nude Food… buying food that is not wrapped in plastic. But in many cases these options are either more expensive, or more time-costly. So we are left to choose between our comfort of living, and having time to do what we want (rather than spending the morning preparing pancakes), versus saving the very planet on which we live.

And it’s taken a 16 year old Swedish girl to painfully point this obvious conundrum out.

Where do we go from here? There’s going to have to be a massive change to the order of things…

Ah - universal income… Yes, I can’t see it working. Would be great if it did… but from other threads on this topic, I see there’s a great divide on the subject. And I get it… but… I do wonder how “fair” the current system is. I sit at a desk all day, working with numbers, occasionally talking to people, and get paid about 40% more than people who are on their feet all day on the other side of the office wall (in the warehouse), running around packing orders. Do I work harder than those people? Is my contribution worth 40% more than theirs?

Does the modern CEO deserve 500 times my income?

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Paper bags? We still get them for our mushrooms. I bought some string bags but they are too stretchy and the veg falls through, so I still need some other kind of containment. I have a bazillion reusable bags, including some of the Coles red and white plastics which are no longer suitable to line a bin. I dunno, what do we do… I still remember the paper bags we would take our groceries home in…

@kyte - I believe this is what we have:

They are pretty good, though I believe they’re probably nylon - so - replacing one plastic for another.

What was meat “sent home in”?? How do you get your steak n sausages home from the shops, without it being in plastic?

If you go to IGA where I live you can still get recycled cardboard boxes. I agree we need to end paper waste also, but until there are better options its beter than nothing.

Butchers paper and newspaper. it was always wrapped. I remember back to about 1958 but before that I don’t know.

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