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EDITIONS
 Rob on the road Monday, 9 September, 2002, 12:09 GMT 13:09 UK
Turning full cycle
Raleigh worker and employee of Forever Bicycles, Shanghai
The future's very different for Raleigh and Forever
A tale of two workers on different sides of the world tells the stark story of the decline of British industry and the growth of manufacturing in the Far East.

In a smartly furnished flat in Shanghai, Sun Bei Bei, a shopfloor worker at a Chinese bicycle maker, is contemplating her rising wage packet and making plans for the future.

Bei is hoping to buy her first new home and her first car.

Back in the English city of Nottingham, Clive Hodgson is working out how to spend his redundancy money as another British factory closes.

Clive's worked at the world-famous Raleigh bicycle factory in the city for almost 40 years.

Clive Hodgson: Looking for another job
In the 1960s it was the symbol of Britain's economic might.

Ten thousand people worked there and the novelist Alan Sillitoe based his story of working class life, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, on his experiences in the factory.

The company is 150 years old, but in two months' time, it will close.

The firm will move to a small distribution centre on the outskirts of Nottingham and get its bikes made in the Far East.

Like a family

Two hundred and thirty people, including Clive, will lose their jobs.

Union leaders say the workers are so convinced that manufacturing is history that Raleigh has struggled to find 30 people to staff the new distribution centre.

There is no way we can compete with the Far East

Clive Hodgson
Raleigh worker
Clive admits to feeling sad at the demise of a famous name.

"People round here have built their lives on working at Raleigh - it's been like a family. It's changed over the years. There used to be thousands of us.

"We've brought in more technology, changed the way we work, but there is no way we can compete with the Far East. I just don't know how they can do it."

Service sector

Clive though does have work to go to. He's been offered jobs selling bikes in a shop, or working at a local hospital.

Both jobs are in the service sector. It's not the end of the line for Clive, but it's certainly the end of an era.

Meanwhile 6,000 miles away at the Forever bicycle factory in Shanghai there are also hard times ahead.

Forever worker Sun Bei Bei
Sun Bei Bei: Wages have gone up
But Bei is confident of the future.

Forever is a state-run company that produces 1.5m bicycles a year, mainly for the domestic market.

But it faces tough competition from fellow Chinese firms and aggressive foreign competitors now moving into the country.

The workforce here has dwindled too, down from 6,000 to 3,000 and output has also halved.

But the company is determinded to survive. It has a policy of diversifying and seeking outside help.

Our salaries are increasing all the time

Sun Bei Bei
Forever Bicycles
It's entering into joint ventures with western businesses to develop electronic bikes and gas powered scooters. It also plans to move to brand new premises within two years.

It adds up to a rosier future for Shanghai's bicycle workers.

Bei says: "I'm confident we'll have work in the future. The company is finding life tough, but there are plans to improve, make ourselves more efficient and to export."

Row of bikes in Shanghai
Chinese bikes are made for much less than in the UK
China's economy is growing at 7% a year. It's a growth based on a manufacturing boom and has led to a big increase in wages for factory workers like Bei.

"In the old days it was quite hard for workers but our salaries are increasing all the time and things are improving fast."

Booming factories

Bei takes home about 30 a week, but it seems to go a long way. Her two bedroomed flat has newly laminated floors and is furnished with the latest in DVD players and widescreen TVs.

Back in Nottingham, Raleigh workers earn around 230 a week. Clive's three bedroomed house is also well equipped and in the drive are three cars for the various members of his family.

His home is on the giant Clifton estate, once the largest council estate in Europe. It was built to house the workers of Nottingham's booming factories.

Clive reckons few of his neighbours now work in the metal bashing trades.

When it comes to manufacturing, the sun is definitely rising in the east and setting in the west.

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