An article i’ve written for DimSum:

“Chinese Whispers: The True Story Behind Britain’s Hidden Army of Labour”

by Hsiao-Hung Pai

Fig Tree Paperback

Right now as you sit comfortably reading this article an army of invisible workers is toiling day and night to provide you with fresh inexpensive supermarket produce, clean homes, cheap restaurant meals and pirated DVDs, they provide supermarkets with booming profits and contribute billions to the British economy. Though invisible, you know these people; they are the harassed waiters in London’s Chinatown, DVD sellers in supermarket car-parks and the bodies being unloaded from the back of trucks in Dover or washed up on the beaches of Morecambe bay…

This army of workers numbers somewhere between 310,000 and 570,000 people (UK Home Office 2007). They come from all over the world, different races and different languages united only in their poverty, overwork and underpay. These members of the British ‘Sub-Economy’ are not protected by any employment law or support group; they have no access to legal services, education, housing or healthcare and are made ripe for exploitation due to their ‘illegal migrant’ status. The work they perform is refused by established British workers. It’s done in atrocious, hazardous conditions with illegally long hours and rewarded with pitiful wages.

Hsiao-Hung Pai’s Book ‘Chinese Whispers’ examines one sector of this labour army; probably the most vulnerable and most exploited group, the Chinese migrant worker. To get a firsthand account of the plight of these people, Hsia-Hung Pai went undercover posing as a newly arrived migrant shortly after the Morecambe Bay Tragedy in 2004 (elements of the book form the basis of Nick Broomfield’s film ‘Ghosts’); ‘Chinese Whispers’ documents her experiences in the British black economy. Hsiao-hung begins by describing the reality of the effects of globalisation and the boom of the new Chinese economy.
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