India / China, Not always an appropriate comparison.

Workers from China and India in 2008

Workers from China and India in 2008

China and India are often compared each other in western medias. Growth and population size are obvious links. However the world of work is not so similar it could appear at first.

Economic evolution history of these two countries differs and leads to different situation.

The Chinese economic boom is build from a fracture and a political vision. The Shenzhen special economic zone is a good example. First of all it is a special zone. That means the normal rules are not applied. The aim was to open the country without fully opening it. Thus what was the small town of Shenzhen welcomed foreign investment. As local workers were far from sufficient to work in the new factories, workers from farer and farer were encouraged to come to work there. Even if most of workers haven’t settled but gone back to their hometown after few years of work, Shenzhen is now a city of almost 10 millions inhabitants, the second stock exchange of the country,… As this was a success, the approach as been used again: making investment easier, making arrival of workers easier. The consequences of such a development are: The major part of migrant workers in factories and the potential abuses coming from that; the separation of commercial and production activities. Finally the share of foreign investment has increased the exportation orientation of Chinese industry.

The Indian economic growth is coming from an evolution. Since its early independence from the British Empire, autonomy has been a strategic item. Gandhi had since the beginning highlight the aberration for India to export cheap raw cotton and buy expensive woven cotton fabric from England. Thus, production for local market has always been essential. Medias recently show the new low-price car of TATA motors (Nano car is sold around 2500 USD). This car is mainly intended to Indian market, even is it will probably be exported to other developing countries. This economic orientation has consequences. First, the industrial base is globally uniform across the country. Moreover, the exporting business has usually been supported by existing companies working for the national market. Thus industrial management and HR (Human resources) management have generally been duplicated (paternalism, working at home subcontracting, comparatively low level of investment, older factories …)

Laborer working condition shouldn’t be extrapolated from one country to another, even if some items as the gross costs are comparable. Thus comparison of the results of social audits seems difficult to be done on raw results, but should rather be done from an analysis taken specificities of countries into account.

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