- Quality of Labor
Even our ragtrade colleagues who most fervently support outsourced production constantly remark on how well-sewn our garments are. Happier workers are generally better workers, and struggling long hours for little pay does not make one happy.
- Quality of Materials
While some Chinese fabrics are indeed very good (we have used Chinese hemp blends), the gabardine samples I have been given by those same colleagues were nowhere near the quality we wish to present to our customers.
- Environmental Costs
While China has been improving its environmental policies in the last year and a half, it still has a very long way to go--and nothing China does within its borders will lessen the impact of shipping finished products across the ocean. We do use imported textiles when we can't find local product, but bulk shipping is far more efficient than the shipping of the same cloth made into finished and packaged goods.
- Support of the Local Economy
To keep money and materials circulating locally improves the social and environmental health of the city and region that supports us, as well as its money economy.
From an LA Times article by David Pierson and Barbara Demick:
China's rapid rise might be the envy of nations across the globe. Yet for all the talk of its economic miracle, Chinese consumers are taking home a shrinking share of the pie. In the 1990s, household income accounted for 72% of the country's gross domestic product. By 2007 it had fallen to 55%, according to a study on Chinese consumption by consulting firm McKinsey & Co.Nothing against China; we even have collateral relatives there. But outsourcing our production to the PRC--or any other similar country whose main export is not really goods but depressed labor costs--would do neither their workers nor ours any favors, but only support yet another level of predatory bosses. We choose not to do that, though it costs us a bit of cash.
That's because Beijing has geared China's economy toward production rather than consumption. It's a formula that has provided millions of workers with employment but no quick path to the middle class.
Driving the disparity, experts said, is China's decision to subsidize manufacturing and exports at almost any cost to keep its factories humming. The government has showered its manufacturers with low-interest loans, export subsidies and other incentives to give them an edge over foreign competitors. Beijing has also kept its currency, the yuan, artificially low so that its goods remain cheap abroad.
That has been a boon for Chinese factory owners and other well-connected elites. The nation boasted 42 billionaires on Forbes' most recent list of global tycoons.
But wages for most Chinese workers have grown slowly, while their tax burden has risen to help finance all those business subsidies. Meanwhile, a weak currency has fueled inflation and makes imports more expensive for consumers at home.
The McKinsey study said the average Chinese worker has to put in seven hours on the job to earn enough to purchase the same amount of goods or services that an American worker could buy with one hour's pay.
And the money Bicycle Fixation pays out to local labor is, much of it, spent in local businesses--including those that support the very people buying our goods.
As the poet William Wordsworth wrote:
The world is too much with us; late and soon,Those who see cheapness as the only virtue, in spite of the damage it may cause their fellow humans and the earth itself, have certainly given away their hearts.
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!