This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

If you are a user of my textbook and would like to suggest a blog post idea, please email me at: john.weeks@sdsu.edu

Monday, September 13, 2010

Made in China? No, in Italy

Garment manufacturers in Prato, Italy (in Tuscany, just outside of Florence) could not compete with the low wages in China, but ultimately the Chinese came to Prato, to help write a new chapter in the tale of globalization and undocumented migration, according to a story in the New York Times.

The city is now home to the largest concentration of Chinese in Europe — some legal, many more not. Here in the heart of Tuscany, Chinese laborers work round the clock in some 3,200 businesses making low-end clothes, shoes and accessories, often with materials imported from China, for sale at midprice and low-end retailers worldwide.

Prato’s streets have slowly become more and more Chinese, as the Chinese have bought out Italian-owned shops and apartments, often paying in cash. Public schools are increasingly filled with Chinese pupils.

In a story highly reminiscent of what has happened in Arizona, the increasing visibility of the Chinese immigrant population has generated a backlash:

In 2009, the traditionally left-wing city elected its first right-wing mayor in the postwar era, whose winning campaign tapped into powerful local fears of a “Chinese invasion,” and who seeks a broader European Union response to Chinese immigration.
The mayor has also stepped up raids on Chinese businesses. Critics say they are little more than media spectacles, but local Chinese have seen them as unwarranted attacks.

The local Chinese community has responded by noting that:
Many Chinese in Prato are offended at the idea that they have ruined the city. Instead, some argue, they have helped rescue Prato from total economic irrelevance, another way of saying that if the Italian state fails to innovate and modernize the economy, somebody else just might.
“If the Chinese hadn’t gone to Prato, would there be pronto moda?” asked Matteo Wong, 30, who was born in China and raised in Prato and runs a consulting office for Chinese immigrants. “Did the Chinese take jobs away from Italians? If anything, they brought lots of jobs to Italians.”

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