Because there are so many people in China, human labor is definitely affordable. There are far more people than jobs available and many are willing to do whatever it takes to earn a scant amount of money. Therefore, anything “made in China” is usually extremely cheap and most of the money goes to material and transportation costs rather than labor costs. I think this is usually true for most developing countries.
For example, my uncle hires two individual housekeepers. One only works part-time and is paid by the hour. She does not live with us. Her main chores include mopping the floors, cleaning, and doing laundry. I have not really interacted with her and it doesn’t appear that the other members of the household do either. She earns 12 Yuan or $2 an hour. I believe she also has to turnover some of this pay to the company that hires her.
The other housekeeper is more of a nanny. We called her Little Wang and I think she is in her fifties. She works here fulltime and actually has a little bed off the kitchen in small room that doubles as a laundry room. She takes cares of the little kids and does all the cooking and grocery shopping. She is paid 1800 Yuan a month plus room and board. That is about $10 a day.
Little Wang seems like a part of the family. We all converse with her and she is familiar with our habits and preferences. We try to convince her to eat with us at meals but she always insists on waiting until we are all done eating. The family treats her kindly, but at times with a little impatience because sometimes she is slow with chores. She loves to hear us talk about the United States.
Likewise, taxi drivers do not earn much either. Taking a taxi is actually pretty cheap in China. My grandmother and I rode a taxi for around twenty minutes and it cost 24 Yuan, or around $4. In New Haven this same trip might be $16 and tip. We talked with the driver for a little bit and he said in Shenzhen he is able to make more money than other cities, in the range of 5-6000 Yuan a month, or about $1000.
In other news, we visited a cheap shopping district yesterday. Since it was Sunday, there were so many people! For lunch we ate at a quick noodle place.
So tonight I leave Shenzhen to travel to Changsha. I'm not sure if I'll have regular internet access but I will try to post as often as possible, so keep reading!