Friday, February 29, 2008

Manufacturing jobs being lost in....China?

Business: Rising costs due to a more developing China, higher taxes, better enforcement of labor laws making companies move out to cheaper areas.

The teddy bears selling for $1.40 in Shanghai's IKEA store may be just about the cheapest in town, but they're not made in China -- they're stitched and stuffed in Indonesia.

The fluffy brown toys reflect a new challenge for China: Its huge economy, which has long offered some of the world's lowest manufacturing costs, is losing its claim on cheapness as factories get squeezed by rising prices for energy, materials and labor.

Those expenses, plus higher taxes and stricter enforcement of labor and environmental standards, are causing some manufacturers to leave for lower-cost markets such as Vietnam, Indonesia and India.

Costs have climbed so much that three-quarters of businesses surveyed by the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai believe China is losing its competitive edge.

The higher costs mean Western consumers are bound to face steeper prices for iPods, TVs, tank tops and many other imported products made by small Chinese subcontractors.

"Americans continue to want to buy at lower prices," said Kevin Burke, president and CEO of the American Apparel and Footwear Association. "They are used to going to the store during Christmas and getting something cheaper than a year ago."

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