Monday, December 14, 2009

Five Second ... Blattman

Blattman sails twixt Scylla and Charybdis in Ethiopia. The great quote:
I fluctuate between wanting to become a labor union organizer and thinking that Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged was right all along. (Let loose the titans of industry!) I’ve met incredible entrepreneurs this week who do more for development in a year than I may accomplish in a lifetime. …
His other insights are fascinating for both sides.
In a meeting with the general manager, the personnel manager expressed his belief that workers were exploited. The personnel manager!

... factory jobs are better than the alternatives, but by no means do they pay a wage that pushes people out of poverty. At least not right away. ...

The interesting dynamic I’ve observed (after a grand total of one week, mind you) is that new hires often receive lots of informal training, and enterprising workers learn how to do the job of the people one or two steps up on the ladder. Their pay rises as a result, if only to stop them from going to the competitor down the street. (This seems to happen a lot.) Within a few years their wage may have doubled or tripled. Others use their earnings to pay school fees, and attain a degree or diploma.

Do I expect a factory job to relieve poverty in one year? I don’t think so. But over a two or three year horizon, gains seem possible. Over a generation, it could be transformative, especially as unskilled labor gets scarce.

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