About five years ago I lived in Beijing. I was in college at the time with a major I had chosen on the flimsy logic that it required a study abroad and I wanted to travel. It turns out that logic paid off and I stayed in Beijing for nearly eight months. The trip, as many students studying abroad will tell you, was world expanding. Not just in that I met people from a different culture, but also that I learned to think through systems. I learned that issues were created by rational people all with their own incentives and all with the belief that they were acting morally. I rigorously applied this to each new challenge I encountered including Beijing’s pollution, political repression, and yes, working conditions in Beijing’s factories.
Among the people affected by these systems were the families who had come to Beijing to find factory work. They were generous enough to let me into their homes and told me about their jobs. Some had amazing experiences of growth and opportunity, but many told stories of abuse: working 70 hours a week without overtime, living in unsanitary dorms, or losing their sight due to on-the-job accidents. I found that without sufficient labor laws or unions these workers turned to each other. A friend would tell them which factories to avoid and which showed promise. Yet the information was often inaccurate or incomplete because their friends moved every few months. All of that invaluable information was lost with time.
This is why my team and I are creating Vize, an app where factory workers can build that invaluable information with their entire community. Employees can anonymously share ratings and reviews of their working conditions, so all other employees can avoid terrible conditions. The other key player in this system is the factory, which struggles to recruit and retain appropriately skilled employees. As factories face pressure from international buyers to cut costs and increase productivity, many want to improve conditions but can’t rationalize the investment. Employees end up paying the price. Consequently, their turnover rate is 7 – 8% of the workforce every month, increasing the costs of recruiting and retraining. In reaction, factories pay labor agencies to find them employees which are expensive and inefficient because they’re pulling from a limited number of employees. This skill gap is becoming an increasing problem as more complex manufacturing such as pharmaceuticals and aerospace products are moving overseas. We want to lower these recruitment and retraining costs while finding better matches between employees and employers. With thousands of potential employees on our platform, we’ll be able to do just that, creating a more equitable and efficient labor market.
With our team of amazing developers at Texas A&M and our partners in Mexico, we are excited to announce that we’ll be launching in July and August in Tijuana. If you're interested in getting involved, you can help us and thousands of factory workers around the world, through our Indiegogo campaign that will be live until September 6th (button below). Or you can contribute by contacting us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow our progress on Facebook and Twitter.
- Bryce Watson