Why are Chinese products cheap in India

New Year's Eve: Dangerous, dirty, but cheap? - A case for India, China & Co

The "International Labor Organization" of the UN estimates the number of working children at 215 million worldwide. More than half of them - around 115 million to be precise - would do dangerous work, according to a report from June 2011, which is based on the latest available figures from 2008. Most children (around 48 million) are affected in the Asia-Pacific region. In sub-Saharan Africa there are just under 39 million, where the proportion of the total number of children is by far the highest at more than 15 percent. The nature of the activities extends far beyond the production of fireworks: whether cheap tombstones from India, gold from Mali or soccer balls from Pakistan - there are countless products that often involve children's hands in their manufacture.

West prefers to look away

Child labor is of course only one of several problems of the division of labor in a globalized world that the West prefers not to look too closely at. Exploitation of workers through low wages, long working hours and no social security is also on the agenda. Badly educated people are particularly affected - often women too.

Another reason for leaving the production of some goods to the developing and emerging countries is that there are significantly lower environmental regulations than in the west. A prominent example in this area are the so-called rare earths - metallic substances that are indispensable as raw materials for the high-tech industry.

Cut into your own flesh

Contrary to what their name might suggest, these mineral resources are not all that rare. However, their dismantling - if it is to be operated reasonably inexpensively - requires the use of chemical substances, which can be highly problematic for the environment. This is the reason why almost all mining sites in the west have been shut down and they have relied on China to exploit its deposits ruthlessly anyway.

Here, for the first time, it is really taking its toll that, in the context of globalization, unpleasant activities have been shifted to the "extended workbench": the industrialized countries have virtually granted China a monopoly and made themselves dependent. The Middle Kingdom is now taking advantage of this and is making western companies sweat with export restrictions and price interventions.

In other contexts, too, there are signs of - at least small - course corrections: In China in particular, there have been increasing labor disputes in recent months, which have ultimately led to wage increases - even if the general level is still very low. Some companies are still reacting to this by relocating production sites - cheaper - inland. Nonetheless, it turns out that, at least in the long term, foreign investment and the economic growth that it brings with it can raise the level of prosperity - a point that advocates of globalization like to emphasize.

Not only in China, but also in the Indian Sivakasi described above, there are now reports of a shortage of workers in the fireworks production, as there are increasing opportunities in other - better paid and less dangerous - areas. That organizations like "Jugend eine Welt" will soon be without a task is not to be expected either in 2012 or in the foreseeable future.