Non-changing world of labour movement

The Toggler blog
Published:  03 July, 2014
The Toggler

Right now across Europe and North America there is growing political unrest relating to labour movement. The Tea Party in the US, UKIP in UK and other right wing groups in several EU countries are in the media saying “foreigners are coming and taking our jobs”. Well – they are not, people and businesses at all levels may choose to live in another country. 

What are we supposed to do with people who move legally to another country to work or live – send them back? Many Americans and Europeans work or live abroad as well. Apparently London is the ‘sixth biggest French town’ now (because of economic migration), German, English and Swedish people live in Spain because of the weather and so on. We cannot put the genie back in the bottle when it comes to nationals choosing to live legally in another country, people of one nationality choosing to live another country has been with us a long time and is here to stay. Some countries positively welcome migration (eg New Zealand, Canada and Australia).

Economic migration is a well-established part of the leather sector. Since the 1970’s companies have moved to follow the low cost labour zones (in the 1980’s it was to Taiwan and South Korea, the 1990’s and 2000’s to China (and many of those China based tanneries were funded and operated by non -Chinese (mostly Taiwanese) and now of course to Vietnam and Indonesia.

People also follow the market. I have been sent or volunteered to work in technical areas in several different countries in my career and lived on different continents. The businesses have welcomed me (and I have brought new ideas and transferred technology through such movement). Now we see many Indian and Brazilian technicians in long term posts in tanneries throughout the world. Why? – Because they have good technical training still operating in their countries and there is a need for these people to move around the world to where the work is needed. If I was now to be repatriated now (on the basis, “we don’t want foreigners working in our tannery”) to my native country – there would be no work for me because there is no significant tanning industry left in my country.

If we consider the factory labour level, economic migration has been common across the developed world, Turkish people to Germany, from the Indian sub continent to UK and North African to France. Now this is happening in the tanning sector, Vietnamese and Thai workers are moving to Korea and Taiwan to work in tanneries. Why? Because the locals don’t want to do the work in dirty/low paid areas and the migrant workers are happy with the pay and conditions. Even the China bubble was operated and manned by a hugh proportion of migrant workers; China might be one country but it is so large workers migrate from the poorer areas to the industrial areas, in exactly the same way that east Europeans recently migrated (for economic reasons) westwards.

The leather sector has been operating businesses with technical and labour migration for many years and will continue to do so. The political movements to resist this are misguided and will not succeed in stopping a worldwide phenomenon that has been operating for years.

The Toggler

thetoggler@internationalleathermaker.com

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