The End of China’s Cheap Denim Dream

Malcom Moore reports for the Telegraph from Xintang, the “jeans capital of the world,” on China’s denim industry and why the price of jeans may rise:

More and more workers are choosing not to travel to the South to find work, preferring to try their luck at one of the new factories or construction projects popping up in inland China, where life is cheaper and they can be closer to their families.

“It is becoming impossible to find people to work,” said Han Zhongliang, a 46-year-old factory boss from Hubei. “I have been here ten years and I used to have 30 to 40 employees. But this year I will be lucky to find 20 who can do the job are willing to work for the wage we offer: 5,000 yuan (£490) a month. If things keep on like this, there won’t be any labour at all in South China in five years time. Since the Olympics, it has just been worse and worse for our business.”

Many other factories have already shut down. On the street where Mrs Wei’s factory sits, only four of the 17 factories are open. In one desolate room, a former factory boss sat on a stool in shame: having lost all of his family’s money, he was too ashamed to return home for the Chinese New Year holiday.

Other bosses complained that new labour laws have empowered workers far too much, and that the government has no love for the polluting denim industry, and offers no help.

“Only the fittest will survive. And they will have to go upmarket and stop making cheap clothes,” said Zhan Xueju, the powerful head of the local Denim Association.

See also a Greenpeace report and slideshow on pollution from the factories of Xintang.

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