Aug 7, 2023 - Economy

Young workers in Asia turn away from factory jobs

Workers operate sewing machines at a Thai Son S.P. Co. garment factory in Binh Thuan province, Vietnam in 2019. Photo: Maika Elan/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Young people in Asia don't want to work in factories anymore, and that has implications for global consumers.

Driving the news: The Wall Street Journal reports that Asia is having a big problem staffing its factories with younger workers.

  • Companies that make goods for brands like Lowe's and Hasbro are having a hard time recruiting and retaining younger workers in places that include India, Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam.

Why it matters: If the trend holds, consumers worldwide will need to prepare themselves for higher prices on everything from clothing and electronics, to toys and furniture, as multinationals pay more for labor or expanded automation.

  • Workers are now more educated than their parents were, which means they have a wider range of job opportunities.
  • Young people in Asia are also having fewer children, which means they face less pressure to earn steady wages.

The intrigue: Social media has also exposed younger Asians to alternative lifestyles and cultures.

  • "Once they can see the Kardashians, they don't want to do [factory] work anymore," Shawn Nelson, CEO of furniture brand Lovesac, told WSJ.

The big picture: While automation can be a solution, manufacturers say there's also a lack of young engineers interested in applying their skills to factory operations.

💭 Hope's thought bubble: The hunt for "cheap labor" has always dehumanized a large part of the world's population whose tedious work subsidizes much of what developed economies take for granted.

  • Asia's young are then justified in their aversion to the types of jobs that previously defined their value to the rest of the world. Companies and consumers having to pay more to make them happy seems like a right-sizing.
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