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Foxconn employees gather to watch a rally at the Foxconn campus in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen on August 19, 2010. Foxconn workers recently threatened to jump off the roof of a factory if their wages weren't increased.

Steve Chiotakis: Word today out of China that 150 workers at a factory that makes iPhones all threatened to jump from the top of the building if they didn't get a raise. Those workers at the Foxconn plant did get a raise. It's the same company that got a lot of press over the past few years for a rash of suicides there among workers, but these aren't the only workers protesting work conditions and pay in the country.

The global economic downturn means increased pressure on China's workers, as Marketplace's China bureau chief Rob Schmitz reports.


Rob Schmitz: The sad reality in China is that threatening to kill yourself is becoming a common tactic among factory workers who want a raise.

What's sadder, says China Labor Bulletin's Geoffrey Crothall, is that many workers are prepared to go through with it.

Geoffrey Crothall: Workers are finding their wages getting cut back, they've been working less overtime, which you might think is a good thing, right? But workers on the minimum wage absolutely depend on overtime pay to make a living wage.

Migrant workers in Shanghai stand for hours in the cold, hoping to be train tickets home for the upcoming Chinese New Year holiday.

Construction worker Cao Xiaobin says he feels the pressure, too.

Cao Xiaobin: The price of food is going up much faster than my salary. If this continues, I have no idea how I'm going to be able to afford to live.

Some Chinese cities are trying to tackle the problem. The Southern metropolis of Shenzhen just raised its minimum wage to around $230 a month. China Labor Bulletin's Crothall says that's simply not enough to live on in urban China. The thing is, Shenzhen now has the highest minimum wage in the entire country.

In Shanghai, I'm Rob Schmitz, for Marketplace.

About the author

Rob Schmitz is Marketplace’s China correspondent in Shanghai.

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