Average Cost Of A Factory Worker In The U.S., China And Germany [INFOGRAPHIC]

03/08/2012 04:36 pm ET | Updated Mar 19, 2012
  • Bonnie Kavoussi Master's student in economics, the University of Michigan

Since 2001, the United States has lost 2.8 million manufacturing jobs to China -- that despite U.S. factory workers being far more productive.

Partly, it can be explained by China's cheaper workers: The average hourly wage for Chinese manufacturing workers is less than a tenth that of their average U.S. counterparts, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

It being about twice as cheap to live in China, those lower Chinese wages go further. But Chinese factory workers also tend to work longer hours, making them more appealing to some employers.

U.S. factory workers do have one critical advantage over others: They're really productive. In fact, U.S. factory workers produce $73.45 per hour in output, one-third more than German factory workers and twice as much as workers in Taiwan, according to the BLS. That's in part because U.S. workers still tend to build more expensive products than someone in Taiwan, such as airplanes instead of shoes, Brookings labor economist Gary Burtless said.

Chinese and U.S. workers differ in another important respect as well. Factory workers in China are more than three times more likely to get killed at work than their American counterparts, and the government's health insurance programs do not cover basic care.

German factory workers, on the other hand, enjoy a higher quality of life than American manufacturing workers. Their wages are 11 percent higher than those in the U.S. -- largely because their unions are more powerful.

How does the global workforce differ? Check out HuffPost's infographics:

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article incorrectly presented the average productivity of Taiwanese and German factory workers as $1.03 per hour and $66.60 per hour, respectively. The average productivity of Taiwanese factory workers is $34.06 per hour, and the average productivity of German factory workers is $55.21 per hour.

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