Monday, November 26, 2007

New York Manhole Covers, Forged Barefoot in India



It's not just call centers that are outsourced to India.

NEW DELHI — Eight thousand miles from Manhattan, barefoot, shirtless, whip-thin men rippled with muscle were forging prosaic pieces of the urban jigsaw puzzle: manhole covers.

Manhole covers manufactured in India can be anywhere from 20 to 60 percent cheaper than those made in the United States.

MP: Just wondering, to be PC, shouldn't it now be "personhole cover"? After all, "Frosty the Snowman" has been replaced by "Frosty the Snowfriend," and a "grandfather clause" has been replaced by a "grandperson clause," and I'm not making that up!

Watch a slide show here about manholes made in India.

(HT: Sanil Kori)

26 Comments:

At 11/26/2007 12:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You know when I google "Frosty the Snowfriend" virtually the only hit I get is your site. I think you are making it up ...

 
At 11/26/2007 12:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Manhole covers manufactured in India can be anywhere from 20 to 60 percent cheaper than those made in the United States.

After looking at the working conditions and safety standards in that factory I would ashamed to even walk on an Indian made manhole cover.

We could make anything at least 20% cheaper in this country if we got rid of our standards of care and safety.

I don't see why this slave labor is seen as progress or even desirable.

 
At 11/26/2007 1:35 PM, Blogger Walt G. said...

You could always use the term “manhole or womanhole” cover to be politically correct, but I would not suggest a search on those terms while you are at work—or around kids.

 
At 11/26/2007 4:26 PM, Anonymous Alex said...

Slave labor? Where are you seeing slave labor?

The "progress" could be that these men are working and getting paid a relative amount to their location and standards of living, where they weren't working or getting paid before...

 
At 11/26/2007 5:21 PM, Anonymous holymoly said...

Hey Mark!

The Bank index fund is down over 4% today -- guess the credit crisis is over, huh?

Care to comment, or will you just be deleting (again) your most recent "prognosticatin" post from last week?

 
At 11/26/2007 5:52 PM, Blogger Walt G. said...

Alex said:
"The "progress" could be that these men are working and getting paid a relative amount to their location and standards of living, where they weren't working or getting paid before..."

Shouldn't an American employer or worker be able to argue they deserve the same working conditions and standards as India; is “progress” just a race to the bottom? There’s a reason pimps go to jail in the U.S., but it appears the India pimps are legally screwing their workers while we are buying their products. In other words, we are all actually “Johns” in this process.

Everyone deserves to be paid a living wage while working in safe and sanitary conditions. That's "progress.”

 
At 11/26/2007 6:52 PM, Anonymous Alex said...

First, don't try to end the discussion with a psuedo moral argument using terms and statements as broad and undefined as "living wage" and "everyone deserves."

If you think in terms of realistic progress, and not some sort of predefined standard that you have in your head, the job of making manhole covers could be considered progress. As more people work, standards of living improve, and thus, your vision of "progress" will come to pass.

Do you think they'd have these jobs if their government suddenly decided to impose your vision of "progress" on them outright, tomorrow?

 
At 11/26/2007 7:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How To Make Manhole Covers 20% Cheaper In America

1. Make the workers work 12 hour days, 6 days per week with no overtime and save close to 20%

2. Take it over 20% saved by using better equipment.

3. Take it over 30% by using Corn Coke fired furnaces. Sure it would be subsidized but it's our corn.

Oh but wait we can't burn anything in the U.S. anymore for fear of polluting the air and contributing to global warming so we'll just continue to have some poor ignorant brown person do our dirty work.

 
At 11/27/2007 7:08 AM, Blogger Walt G. said...

Alex:

A lot of people have a "predefined standard of progress in their head." It's called not exploiting workers in the name of "progress." Your notion of “realistic progress” would legitimize my earlier analogy of prostitution. Do you believe a pimp should be enriched by exploiting prostitutes with the idea that the prostitute did not have a job when he “hired” her and that she will be able to get a better job in the future? Lessening the degree of getting screwed does not change the fact that you are.

 
At 11/27/2007 7:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You screeching liberals and economic ignoramuses sap the pleasure that I get from reading this blog. You are like the once-powerful high school bully, who now just is an annoying twerp.

And holymoly, you specifically, with your accusatorial and confrontational attitude, are particularly egregious in your asshattery. You can always go start your own blog to disseminate your brand of moonbattiness. Oh wait, there are already thousands of liberal echo chambers that repeat the samee old tired, failed leftist tropes.

 
At 11/27/2007 8:49 AM, Blogger Mark J. Perry said...

Suppose NYC stopped buying manhole covers from India because safety standards are lower there than here.

1) NYC residents would be worse off because taxes would be higher to pay for more expensive American-made manhole covers.

2) If the Indian manhole cover industry collapsed the workers there would lose their jobs and be worse off.

(Notice that the article said there hadn't been any accidents.)

And workers in many/most manufacturing and construction industries in India work barefoot or with flip-flops. If we imposed our safety standards on India, their economy would collapse, and they would be much worse off.

Think of India like the U.S. in the 1890s or early 1900s in terms of safety standards. Give them time to become an advanced economy, and their safety standards will improve to the level of the U.S.

Safety standards are a luxury of an advanced economy. India's not there yet, but give them time.

 
At 11/27/2007 9:20 AM, Anonymous holymoly said...

Anonymous @ 7:14am --

Why thank you! I like nothing better than to add a little fresh signal to this echo-chamber of noise. You've made my day.

 
At 11/27/2007 10:17 AM, Blogger Walt G. said...

“(Notice that the article said there hadn't been any accidents.)”

I would have to question the reporting methodology of such a ludicrous claim. Are we expected to believe that such draconian manufacturing processes yield worker safety data vastly superior to world-class safety standards? I work with OSHA standards everyday and have to admit they are oftentimes overzealous, but safety is not automatically built into business case decisions. Anyone watching the film clip would have to realize profits are more important than safety in the India manhole industry.

The only people stating that safety is a luxury and not a necessity probably already has theirs. Chop a finger or toe off and see if you still feel that way.

 
At 11/27/2007 12:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mark Perry, are you kidding me?

You said:

1) NYC residents would be worse off because taxes would be higher to pay for more expensive American-made manhole covers.

I say:

American-made manhole covers are more expensive because we have standards! We don't have time to let them catch up. They can catch up now, it will just increase the cost of their product.

You also said:

2) If the Indian manhole cover industry collapsed the workers there would lose their jobs and be worse off.

I say:

Look at what is happening to our economy. We cannot compete! Would you feel more sorry for them if they lost their jobs than you would for us losing our jobs?

The way you explain it, we owe them time to let them catch up. In the meantime, all manufacturing is going overseas. Eventually, they will have safety, environmental, and quality standards, but domestic foundries will no longer be in the game. Do you anticipate manufacturing jobs moving back here after the rest of the world catches up?

The temporary double standard that you propose is unacceptable. Globalization obviously hinders the advanced nation unless everyone has to meet the same standards.

 
At 11/27/2007 1:28 PM, Blogger Alex A said...

Walt - who are you to say these men are being "exploited?" What gives you that sort of idea? Are they not free to choose to work or not work in the factory that makes manhole covers for New York City? I see no bars and locks on the doors and windows, and I see where they are getting paid to do this work.

Just because you don't see your liberal American version of "progress" (whatever that means), and there isn't a "living wage" (whatever that means) that is up to your western standard, doesn't mean that there isn't actual progress, in that they have jobs they are freely doing and for which they are relatively paid.

 
At 11/27/2007 1:31 PM, Blogger Alex A said...

"The temporary double standard that you propose is unacceptable. Globalization obviously hinders the advanced nation unless everyone has to meet the same standards."

The problem with your idea of "standards," is that they are not imposed, but grown over time. Attempting to impose the same western "standards" in a country that is not close to those of the west has always proven to be a failure.

 
At 11/27/2007 1:45 PM, Blogger Walt G. said...

Alex A.
Do you think an American businessman should be able to use the same standards that his competitor in India uses to manufacture manhole covers for New York City? If not: Why? If so: How?

 
At 11/27/2007 2:08 PM, Blogger Alex A said...

Even if an American businessman trying to produce manhole covers at a factory in the US were allowed to let his employees come to work barefoot and exempt them from minimum wage laws, it probably wouldn't happen.

Do you understand that different countries and regions have differences in standards of living, such as those between India and the United States?

Do you understand my point that just because something isn't tolerable to your standards of living, doesn't mean it isn't tolerable to a man in India who is glad to come to work barefoot to make manhole covers?

Do understand my point that standards are not something that you can impose outright, and that they must be developed over time, and that the best way to do this is through economic growth, which, for these men, is probably starting in the manhole cover factory outside of New Dehli?

 
At 11/27/2007 2:27 PM, Blogger Mark J. Perry said...

Please see my new post about "Help Is On the Way...."

 
At 11/27/2007 2:38 PM, Blogger Walt G. said...

alex a,

I understand that what we have here is neither competition nor a free market. Competition would imply equals with the best man/company winning. Free market would imply that choices are made without outsider/government interference. India manhole cover manufacturing sounds more like a subsidized monopoly to me.

 
At 11/27/2007 4:30 PM, Anonymous Alex A said...

Walt, how do you come to that understanding, and where does that address the issue of relative standards of living?

 
At 11/27/2007 8:47 PM, Blogger Walt G. said...

Alex, a common concept on this blog is that free market capitalism benefits all. Those who can compete win and those who can't compete lose. I don't see where American businessmen or workers stand a chance attempting to compete with businesses that don't have the legal constraints or a cheap labor pool like India has.

I don't think that I am the only person who feels this way. I believe "free markets" and global trade are in for a rough ride after the next election. Even the Republicans are starting to change their tune about trade, and there are not enough Libertarians and economists to change the current sentiment.

 
At 11/27/2007 9:03 PM, Anonymous Alex A said...

It sounds like you are making the terribly incorrect assumption that cheap labor from India truly threatens vast areas of our economy.

The reality is, those who would have to diretly compete with cheaper overseas labor represent an increasingly smaller portion of the US labor pool and economy, and even amongst those, adaptation and recovery isn't exactly out of reach; we do not have massive unemployment because of global labor competition, do we?

 
At 11/28/2007 9:29 AM, Blogger Walt G. said...

Alex, I don’t think the assumption is wrong that vast areas of the economy have been affected by foreign trade from countires such as India. I believe that it’s a widely accepted fact, and supported by U.S. government data, that areas such as manufacturing have been especially hard-hit.

The usual response, though, is that jobs lost in one area (manufacturing) have been replaced by jobs in other areas (service). How well that has worked out is open to hot debate.

 
At 11/28/2007 1:47 PM, Blogger Alex A said...

If the effect on the US economy and its workers is your real concern, then why didn't you just say that to begin with, rather than trying to make it about worker safety and "living wage" in India?

On that, hasn't technology had a far greater impact on manufacturing jobs in this country, in the present, past and future, than outside competition ever has or will?

But back to India, did you consider that jobs like the one showcased here are so in demand, that people will bribe their way into working there because not only is it a better alternative than what they have (or don't have), but most multinational companies pay double the local wage for these jobs?

 
At 11/28/2007 3:03 PM, Blogger Walt G. said...

alex a said: "On that, hasn't technology had a far greater impact on manufacturing jobs in this country, in the present, past and future, than outside competition ever has or will?"

Good catch. You are correct. In fact, most of the problem of manufacturing job loss can be attributed to technology. The last figure I saw was about 7% of the job loss was due to foreign trade. Our plant ships as many tons of finished steel as they did 10 years ago with half the number of workers. Although we lost some small jobs to outside suppliers, none of our job loss is attributable to foreign trade.

 

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