I’m a design engineer for a company that builds custom assembly and test machines for all types of industries. These days, most of my work goes into the numerous maquiladoras that line the US-Mexico border, where US manufacturers exploit the huge wage disparity between American and Mexican workers to keep their costs lower. Typically, the equipment we design and build for Mexico is what we call “lean automation”, in which the machine still requires an operator to fulfill its task.
Recently, one of my customers in Tijuana has been putting more hi-speed, fully automated equipment in their facility. When I questioned one of their Mexican manufacturing engineers about it, he stated that they were doing so to stay competitive with cheaper Chinese labor. They were afraid that their corporate overlords in the US would start shifting production to China if they didn’t focusing on ramping up productivity in the Mexico facilities. He went on to say that their average assembly worker wage started around $1.35/hr, topping out around $1.90/hr. He said Tijuana wages are higher than in most of Mexico, but that they were also not one of the better paying maquilas in TJ, so it is questionable to use this number as an average for Mexican factories. Maintenance techs, engineers, and other skilled positions paid more, but in general the wages he quoted were low compared to their US counterparts. He had heard that Chinese workers made about 15 cents/hr. That seems hard to believe to me. I googled and found huge discrepancies in wages quoted, but a couple of sources mentioned $120/mo. as a typical wage, while stating that Chinese workers typically work far more than 40 hour work weeks.
Anyone have reputable numbers? Does China even have a minimum wage law in effect?