I’ve been going around China for much of my vacation, and one thing that amazes me is the work ethic of the Chinese people.
China is well known for having its one-child per family policy. Once you leave the main hub cities, you are generally allowed to have two children, especially if the first child is a girl.
When you visit a trader, you see a husband and wife team running the store. They also usually have at least one child, who joins them at their store. What happened to the grandparents you might ask? Quite simply, living the entrepreneurial dream and also operating stores of their own, hence finding no time to look after their grandchildren.
What amazed me? A child sleeping on a trolley cart, with just a little cloth to act as a blanket. Another child sleeping on cardboard, with just a little cloth to act as a blanket. Children no older than three, helping their parents sort out items they have received from wholesalers.
I read in the newspapers about the story of a cobbler who went to Shanghai. He earns about RMB1,000 per month. He spends RMB300 per month on rent (he shares a room with four others), and he spends another RMB300 on food (he says he has two man tau for lunch). He saves RMB400 per month. That’s a 40% savings rate. He has a family far away from Shanghai (about 8 hours by train), and he’s OK with living away from them.
We went to get a massage. It was to last a total of 90 minutes and it would cost us a mere RMB75. Do you know what a massage therapist gets paid? RMB17 per customer for 90 minutes of hard work. None of them are also local, preferring to come from towns about 5 hours away. There are no benefits, there are no rest days, and there is no daily wage – if you have no customers, you’re straight out of luck. You do however get lunch or dinner depending on which shift you take.
Quick calculations show that at RMB17/90 minutes, if you can massage 4 customers a day, you walk away with RMB68/day. Do that for 22 days (an average work month), and you’ve got about RMB1,500, without tips. This is more than a Foxconn employee making high value items like iPhones, iPads, and more get per month as a base salary! Yes, there have been increases recently (sometime in May 2010), and you can make a bit more via overtime.
There are showrooms and warehouses that do not ever close. They operate 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. You can go in at anytime you please to take a look at their products.
Traders or workers, everyone does their job with lots of zeal and a smile on their faces. They’re working hard. They’re saving hard. The entrepreneurial spirit is just alive and kicking.
All this provides great inspiration. It makes you want to strive as hard. The Chinese work ethic amazes me, and there is a lot to learn from them.
Aside: It makes you wonder if a country like Malaysia, who is in the middle-income trap, will reach such greatness? Do we have the work ethic? Are we willing to sacrifice for greatness? Are we willing to work hard for great reward?
There are already 10 million English language speakers in China. There are over 300 million learners of the language. Malaysia still flip flops on what language to choose.