Tale of two worlds…and then, of another two worlds !!

One of the articles in a recent issue of the Economist carries a story of how South Korean car companies like Hyundai and Kia are abolishing the night shift in their manufacturing facilities in Korea. This is a sign of the increasing aspiration for better standard of living of Korean workers, an easy–to-understand request from people of a country which has moved into the league of developed countries. GDP per capita of South Korea was USD 80 in 1960, poorer than many sub-Saharan African countries. The manufacturing export miracle in the following decades has brought GDP per capita to almost USD 25,000 (USD 35k on PPP) !

Anyways, so workers getting richer has resulted in the night shift being abolished in auto factories there. Ironically, the number of workers working in night shift has been increased recently by 10-20% in UK and USA. This move comes in the wake of worsening economy and fewer jobs. So, life’s come a full circle for the workers in much richer countries. Whether South Korean countries should take a leaf from the American and British companies and be careful about moving too much too fast into a literal “comfort zone” is a question with no clear answer. Possibly, the only way people learn is by going through the cycle themselves.

(A piece of semi-trivia is that Hyundai and Kia also have manufacturing facilities in USA and they have increased night shift working there !!!).

Moving onto the other tale of another 2 worlds : Today’s column of Expense Account in Mint (easily one of my top 4 columns along with Swaminomics, Mint Quick Edit and ToI 3rd Edit) talks about the reliance of poor families on their community and society. The sub-$2 per person families exist in our villages and in our cities too. Their community is itself their social net, given the absence of formal micro-institutionalised credit. With the premature “demise” of microfinance industry in India, I think this situation will continue to fester. The other world in the column of course is the one which is tracking Mutual Fund SIPs and trying to conclude if the current revival of stock markets is a post-QE transient phenomenon or the return to normalcy of equity markets.

India is complicated because it is not India, it “is” Indias…but then, that’s another story…

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