Textile and clothing enterprises that dramatically raised
the wages of employees in autumn last year have continued to provide the same high level of payment through the second quarter of 2014, Daily NK has confirmed.
The majority of workers with Pyongyang Potonggang Garment Factory and connected enterprises are satisfied with the current state
of affairs, sources add. However, there have also been complaints at the pressure laborers are under, and instances of ill health are on the rise.
A source from the North Korean capital told Daily NK on the
25th, “People working for factories with links to Potonggang Garment Factory started
receiving the increased 300,000 won wage since September last year, and
continue to do so.”
“People seem to be satisfied,” he went on. “Most of
them turn up to work every day and on time.”
However, “After the Upper [the authorities]
decreed the salary increases for the textile sector, they ordered workers to arrive at dawn and hiked up individual quotas. They say that employees who
fail to meet their target during working hours should stay late until
it is met.”
In an outcome reflective of many developing
countries that pursue an export strategy, the harsh working hours and
environment are leading to ill health among staff, the source revealed. Employees
must perform repetitive tasks, mostly while standing, and this leads to
joint and muscular difficulties. Exposure to dust created during the textile
manufacturing process has also begun to produce high rates of respiratory tract infection.
As workers are supposed to perform their duties even while
sick, there have been a number of cases of people attempting to bribe their way into
a different enterprise or factory.
“Quite a few workers returned to work in the factory when
they heard about the wage increases, but because of the tough work here they
are trying to find ways to get out again,” he explained. “The wage rise isn’t
enough, as 300,000 won is still less than what the average market trader can make
in a month. So, they want to move to other places.”
“People are increasingly aware that trade will
bring in $50 a month,” he reiterated. “For their part, traders reckon that the textile factory is ‘the
place for people without the skills for commerce.’”
State restrictions on trade activities have been relatively
limited in scope in recent years, which is helping to make the market an attractive
destination. Workers who are confident in their ability to trade successfully believe they are better off bribing their way out of work duties to free up time for other work.
“No matter how much they pay, the fact is that factory work
is difficult and the hours are long,” the source said. “You also
have to be careful as they watch over you during [ideological] study sessions,
The North Korean authorities took the step of raising wages 100x for Potongang Garment Factory and enterprises related to it in September 2013. This was done as an experiment in improving productivity so as to raise export revenues in a relatively competitive sector.