Monday, January 19, 2009

NYT Letter on Sweatshops

Following Nick Kristof's disturbing Oped in the New York Times last week arguing that the world needs more sweatshops - an Oped that left me feeling like I had spent the night in a bed of fleas - Adam Neiman, the founder of Boston-based No Sweat Apparel, has written a fabulous letter in response. Neiman writes beautifully, as in "when jobs aren’t a pathway out of poverty, they create an asymmetric, unsustainable global economy of producer countries and consumer countries that can stand on its head only so long." The letter makes a superb case against sweatshops, and I could not agree more strongly. Read the letter here.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Companies: Employment is your #1 job

I'm in Tokyo this week, and it's fascinating to see how the Japanese are responding to the global economic downturn. This morning, one of the Japanese Sunday morning talk shows was focused on the social consequences of Japan, Inc's decision over the past several years to reduce labor costs. With nearly 40% of Japanese employees now working in non-staff jobs (including my graceful, thoughtful new doctor friend, Sugiyama Saiko), Japan has broken the social contract it once had with its workforce. The businessman they interviewed on the show said emphatically that Japanese companies, under pressure from globalization, had started to care too much about shareholders, but that this era was now over. Companies needed to care about their employees, their customers AND their shareholders, he said. A primary duty of a company should be to employ people, he said. I have never known Japanese companies to care much about their shareholders, but in this era of mass layoffs, when our consumption-driven model has collapsed into a paradox of thrift, it's certainly food for thought.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

A Best China Book of 2008

Access Asia has named The China Price one of its best books of 2008. "Perfectly timed to deal with the rising costs of production, the moves inland, the recession and factory closures and the stupidity of companies who claimed they were effectively auditing their suppliers," the research group noted. "Harney gets it all down in a readable fashion and nails her subject." The nomination prompted a fiery debate on, which is interesting in itself. Read the review and the debate here.