Greg's Reviews > Factory Girls: From Village to City in a Changing China

Factory Girls by Leslie T. Chang
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U 50x66
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Jan 06, 2013

it was amazing

Terrific book about factory workers in China. Author is a Taiwanese-born American who speaks fluent Mandarin, and apparently looks the part as well. Details her travels and relationships she forms with factory workers (who are mostly girls) while weaving in factual/statistical information about China.
Lots of interesting info in the book, probably more than I can recall here, but the main things I remember are

- China’s workforce today is (one of?) the largest migration in human history. Nearly all factory workers are migrants, from small farms out in the country

- Most factory workers are females, since guys are able to get engineering/design jobs easier, and are more likely to have an education, having been supported by their family

- Identity fraud is common, since the law requires girls be a certain age in order to work (yet factories avoid hiring older workers because they fear they’d have to pay them too much)

- Self-improvement is a central focus of many factory workers, yet their opportunities for self-improvement are often questionable. The “schools” that exist are often run by people barely qualified to be giving advice. The most popular topics are computer skills, foreign language skills, and “working in an office” skills

- “Square and Round”, a Machiavellian book about getting ahead, was written by someone who in all aspects appears to be a loser and a failure. There’s nothing impressive or successful about him, aside from having written a best-selling book, and it’s not clear that following his advice is even a good idea

- Peoples’ identities are tied to their cell phone. Some people will even avoid befriending those without mobiles since they’re so hard to keep track of. And when someone loses their mobile, it usually means losing touch with all the friends they’ve made. It seems uncommon for people to talk about their family/home village, possibly because of the identity fraud, or possibly simply because it’s rare for people to be close

- Although many workers start out being very filial and sending the majority of their money back home, most will start saving that money instead, or spending it on themselves. However, it seems everyone knows about everyone else’s monetary situation, particularly how much savings they have, and whether they spend frivolously. Thus there is some social pressure to save
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