Thursday, March 29, 2007

'Rage' over Labour and Wages

A key employee, who's a few years younger than me, is quite the character. He came bursting into the office all in a huff after lunch saying he would never eat at KFC or McDonald's again . This over something about pay. As an aside, it is a source of constant amusement and sometimes frustration since he gets into these moods every once in a while - full of indignation over foreigners hurting poor Chinese people. I just tend to roll my eyes.

This is what he was talking about. I think Imagethief does a fantastic job of illustrating how stupid both McDonald's and KFC come across even though their position may ultimately turn out to be perfectly valid. Apparently both KFC and McDonald's are being accused of underpaying their student workers - and not by much, but you wouldn't really realize that by the coverage.

As someone who doesn't in general think that it makes sense to have a minimum wage in the first place, I suppose context is required to see the world through my employee's sometimes highly hypocritical eyes. I mean compared to other local companies out there, I pointed out that McDonald's and KFC probably do far better - but according to him Chinese people hurting other Chinese people is ok... but those dang foreigners, that's a whole different ball of wax. (He tells me from time to time that I'm also a Chinese person, but I tell him that I'm a Hong Kong person - inferring the latter isn't a subset of the former. This drives the nationalist in him nuts)

We had to have a going away dinner for a colleague today and after that outburst, as we were deciding where we should go, I suggested that we go to McDonald's with as serious a face as I could muster and he just glared at me.

During more serious moments I might otherwise consider what implications nationalism for the relatively educated masses will have on the future of China - particularly for Hong Kong, Taiwan but also Japan and North Korea. This is after a guy who took part on street protests over Japan last year. Then again, it's far too late in the evening to do that now.

I wonder how much of a real impact this recent press coverage has had although it's been quite clearly well publicized here in Guangzhou. I will ponder just that impact while I chomp on a Sausage and Egg McMuffin tomorrow morning for breakfast.

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