It truly saddens me to think I might be partly responsible for at least thirteen (13) people – people I never knew – deciding to bring their lives to a premature end. However, the reality is that just might be the case. Maybe I did have something to do with it. No, I take that back. I most certainly had something to do with it. At Foxconn, a Chinese electronics factory that produces components for the likes of Dell, HP, and Apple, there were thirteen reported cases of suicide since January.  Why? Well, according to an article by the New York Times, the harsh work environment, a sense of loneliness, and working 286 hours per week in order to earn the equivalent of $1 per day were the major causes. Personally, I think the problems run much deeper than that, but it would take too much space to present my argument in a blog post (look for a full article soon).

How I am responsible for the despair these factory workers, their families, and others in similar situations feel? It’s easy to blame the huge global companies that outsource their production to factories like this, but the constant consumer demand for faster, stronger, better, and CHEAPER products drive these companies to cut corners wherever they can. Two big expenses that increase costs: manufacture and customer service. Sometimes I walk into a store like Target and walk by the $1 section, pick up an item and think:

That’s crazy. We were able to mine the raw materials, refine those materials, ship them to China, pay the salaries of everybody from the executive team to the designers to the factory workers, label it, package it, ship it BACK to the States, and pay the courier, the inventory people, and the salaries of everybody in the store…all for under $1 per unit – for a pen.

Just under $1 is the maximum we’re willing to spend on that pen – the same amount the Chinese factory worker may have made that day. Is it worth it?