How Western Business Can Bring Prosperity to Asia – Cheap Labour

Foreign Policy wrote an interesting article on 10 Reasons Countries Fall Apart, and I am writing parallel posts about Western businesses in Asia. I believe they have the opportunity to bring prosperity to Asia, and are missing that opportunity in some ways.

Obviously, I am no expert on what I want to write about –  I am just a simple person with some observations and personal experiences. My introduction to this series of posts will explain this all better.

2. Forced Labour – Cheap Labour

Foreign Policy talks about the fact that most economies were based on the concept of forced labour, and yet “forced labour is also responsible for the lack of innovation and technological progress in most of these societies”. Now, forced labour isn’t really an option any more, but cheap labour sure as hell is! Isn’t that the reason for most Western businesses to venture into Asia? The lure of the cheap labour costs, right?

It’s a wonderful prospect when the cost of labour is so low that it doesn’t really matter how many labourers are required, or how long they are required to work for, in order to get the job done. It must seem like a utopia to Western businesses. And with that knowledge, one or two or five employees without a lot of work to do isn’t that bad. The labour economics just get completely out of whack.

And with this excessive amount of labour, there is no need to bring in technology or push for smarter decision making from managers. Just put in more cheap labourers to make it happen! The labourers however, have next to no skills apart from sheer brute force. They are not offered real training opportunities, since they are dime a dozen. The labourers are forever kept at the lowest possible wage, with the minimum amount of skills required. Even the managers are stripped of development opportunities, with little need or incentive to implement efficiencies.
I believe a society advances most when the poorest of society is not exploited just because it is vulnerable. Western business would bring prosperity to Asia by advancing technology and working towards efficiencies in their labour. To be honest, it’s tricky to know if it’s better to provide a tiny amount of income to multiple families, than a reasonable income to a few families. But I do 100% believe it is better for the whole of society if business is run efficiently with better technology, because it especially means lesser impact on the environment. 
Of course, this is all written from my simple observation and personal experience. So what do I really know? I am definitely no authoritative expert on this subject – I look forward to your take on it all. Please, do comment below.

Btw, if you’re wondering how I can be employed in HR, and write about HR – here‘s my explanation.

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  • 17 October 2012