China’s "Living Wage"

Just read a CNN article, When will workers share in Apple’s wealth? This article was written by Scott Nova, executive director of the Worker Rights Consortium, a “labor rights-monitoring organization that investigates working conditions in factories around the world.”

Nova attacks Apple on many fronts in his article, but it is the following that really got me thinking:

And if Apple genuinely “cared about every worker,” it would pay every worker a living wage — enough for workers to achieve a minimally decent standard of living, support their families and even save a bit toward a better future. Today, barely 1% of the retail price of an Ipad goes to the workers who make it; 33% goes to Apple’s profits. Apple’s profits are so high, and its global labor costs so low, that it could triple the wages of its 700,000 manufacturing workers and help them achieve a living wage (just a few dollars an hour in China), and still make $40 billion a year. A wage increase of 16% to 25% at Foxconn, announced today as Apple’s public relations blitz reaches a crescendo, doesn’t come close.

Where did Nova get his numbers regarding what constitutes a “living wage” in China. And what does constitute a living wage in China? Does that not depend on the city? Does it not matter that Foxconn typically provides its workers with room and board, in addition to their salary?
Again though, what constitutes a “living wage” in China? What do you think?

UPDATE: Stan Abrams at China Hearsay did a post, Profit Sharing and China’s Living Wage [link no longer exists], taking Nova to task for, among other things, using “squishy language” and for the following:

This [calling for Foxconn to pay its workers a decent wage] sounds great and quite reasonable, but of course the writer has no idea what “minimally decent” means in China, in Shenzhen or anywhere else. He doesn’t know what it takes to support a family here, and I guarantee that the complex matters of health, education and housing expenditures and their related effects on savings are matters he did not research prior to writing the Op/Ed.

FURTHER UPDATE (2-24-2012): The New York Times just came out with an article, How Much Do Foxconn Workers Make? that seeks to discern exactly what Foxconn employees make.

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