What is ‘cheap’ labor?

 

We humans are being called to account. Our system of capitalism – a system that has been built, that could only have been built, entirely on the ability to NOT count for many externalities, such as the cost of Earth to create ‘fossil’ fuels, as well as the cost to release the ‘waste products’ of fossil fuels into the ecosystem – or the cost of slave labor, ‘cheap’ labor, and women’s work (caring for home and children and the elderly) – this system is finally failing us.

I would like us all to consider exactly what is ‘cheap’ labor? And how we could have ever thought that our individual profit would be perfectly acceptable knowing that we have profited off the backs of many who have given their life force energy at the coal face of our profit and luxury. If you look at the history of capitalism you will see that the financial wealth of the few has been built off the back of slavery and exploitation.

To consider the all-in-cost – to take into account the past and future of someones time – their labor – restores business to the realms of humanity serving humanity.

When we ship our labor offshore to reduce our ‘capital’ costs, do we consider exactly what we are doing? Have we taken into account the entire ecosystem? The cost at home? The cost to the factory worker making stuff? You might argue that without our offshore jobs the people would not have a job. This argument is short sighted for it neglects to take into account that the person you are ‘saving’ was forced to leave their subsistence land because it no longer provided for them – that their requirement to work for pennies is part of the design feature of our current capitalist system. You might also argue that to employ people at home is too expensive, and that your business would fail if you didn’t offshore to ‘cheap’ labor. Both ends of this consideration shows a system that is failing humanity…and one that can be changed by people in business choosing to make different decisions about how they employ. We are being called to be creative on how we employ in a way that honours all.

The question I would ask you to consider is, ‘if this is your business model is it worth it? Will it allow you to sleep at night? Really?’

When we hear the defensive response…its just good business…does this justify that our lifestyle is built off the back of many forms of slavery/cheap labor/the invisible person who is trying to scratch out survival.

On some level I know what it feels like to be ‘cheap’ labor – as a women whose work at home has always be considered of no economic value. As a women who is not paid as well as my male colleagues, who has to insist on equality and in so doing being called a bitch/hard to work with.

“Cheap’ labor – this very title – reduces humanity to some digital record on a balance sheet. This ‘cheap’ labor is a human being with dreams and aspirations, someone who aches for their children as we do…who laughs and cries… as we do.

A more accurate way to say that a business relies on ‘cheap’ labor for profit is to say the profit of xyz corporation is built entirely on the exploitation and appropriation of ‘x’ number of people and the destruction of ‘y’ number of resources.

Its time to call a spade a spade.

How about we look at valuing every single human being for their contribution and build businesses around doing that? Now this is what I would call innovation.

 

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