Have you enjoyed a family vacation—thanks to our global division of labor?
Ever travel on a cruise ship? This mode of travel-recreation is not exactly my cup of tea, but this summer I went on a short cruise, sailing American waters aboard a foreign-flagged ship.
The reason for the cruise was a big family event—celebration of a Golden Anniversary—and the honorees’ dream was a cruise with family. I was more than happy to go, and we had a great trip.
It didn’t take long to notice a peculiar class structure on ship—an ethnic division of labor. The officers were all white Europeans. Almost all the service staff—waiters, bartenders, bag handlers, cabin stewards, chefs, deck hands, and more—were Filipinos.
Talking with them, I learned that many sign on for a 10-month stint, never seeing their families during the time. They work long days, sometimes 14 hours a day, and often work seven days a week. I didn’t ask them about pay, but the International Labour Organization recommends a minimum monthly wage of $545, based on a 48-hour work week. (For comparison, the monthly wages based on the U.S. minimum wage of $7.25/hour would be $1,392.)
Long hours, hard work, low pay—as the passengers play. As one Filipino worker said to me, “You and me, we come from different sides of the world.” It was a global division of labor, created in the microcosm of a ship.
Cruise line trade groups say service workers get a good deal because they earn more than they could at home. Critics say foreign-flagged ships plying American waters with mostly American passengers should abide by U.S. labor rules and regulations.
What’s been your experience?
Do you agree with the trade groups or with the critics of the industry?
Where else have you seen an ethnic division of labor?
Please, Add a Comment. Where have you seen this kind of problem arising? What solutions have you found?