Tuesday, November 28, 2006
Inside a gold farm
GigaOm has an article on Chinese gold farms, *yawn*, who hasn't? But it links to two YouTube videos, showing actual footage filmed in Chinese gold farms, from a TV documentary.
One theme of the documentary is "the future of work". The gold farm owner explains that he was in the US and found that a meal or haircut there cost 8 times as much as in China. If he could easily export meals or haircuts, he would make a lot of money. But as these things aren't that easy to export, he turned to the one "service industry" which allowed him to export Chinese labor to the USA. I guess he is paying neither customs nor any form of taxes, which makes that an attractive business.
In a way that gold farm is just a typical example of globalization. Work is done at the cheapest possible location. With the Chinese economy growing so fast, in 10 or 20 years the Chinese will be too rich to do such gold farm works. Meanwhile probably Africa will have acquired enough people with internet access and we'll talk about African gold farms.
The other theme of the documentary is exploitation of the young Chinese guys working in that gold farm "sweat shop". Now that argument I'm not buying. Sure, the gold farm looked not terribly clean, with two dozen people sleeping, eating, and "working" in the same house. But you can't compare that work to an US office job, you'll have to compare it to a job that an unskilled Chinese guy could find in China. I've seen another documentary about Chinese day laborers, most of them working in construction, and the gold farm work looked comparatively paradisiac to that.
In fact I've seen US dorms that looked remarkably similar to that gold farm. I bet if I installed a big table with a dozen computers running WoW in an average US college dorm, after two weeks the place would look exactly like the gold farm in the video. Just with pizza instead of ramen noodles, and the Americans not being paid to play WoW. If the Chinese guys are getting paid to play WoW, and the Americans are paying to play WoW, who is being exploited here?