Improved living standards don’t negate criticism by activists who castigated the outsourcing industry, especially Nike, a 1990s lightning rod for allegations of low pay and onerous working conditions. Abuses continue in some plants, especially those unconnected to international brands.
But longtime activists acknowledge that the sweatshop issue has lost steam, at least concerning China. Conditions and wages have improved, says Jeffrey Ballinger, a critic who still dismisses corporate-responsibility programs — in which Nike, Columbia and other companies set standards and inspect factories — as spin.
“My complaint always was they should have been able to make that kind of wage without working 70 hours a week,” said Ballinger, a McMaster University doctoral candidate in political science. He wants the Obama administration to push countries to require higher “living wage” levels.
|China’s rural boom|