It’s easy to find out about the lifestyles of the rich and famous around the world. But it’s not so easy to learn about the actual conditions and concerns of workers in other countries. This is even truer for countries like China, where communication with the outside world is limited.
Last spring a new draft labor law was proposed by the Chinese government. In a surprisingly democratic move, the government opened up a period of comment on the law. The comments of US and EU multi-nationals were the basis of our report: Behind the Great Wall.
But comments on the proposed law did not just come from corporations; over 190,000 comments poured in from ordinary people from all walks of life. Many—about 100 pages worth—appeared on a site hosted by the People’s Daily in Beijing. The newspaper asked people to comment “….as individual bloggers, rather than as representatives of the people.”
The comments open a window on the life and problems of ordinary workers in China. Some of them are unique to workers in China such as problems associated with Chinese labor contract law. But workers around the world will recognize many others. For example, workers in many countries know that there are labor laws that are supposed to protect their rights, but find that there is little or no way to access means of enforcing them.
We want to thank Julia Chuang and her colleagues for their work uncovering this trove of information and for making some of it available to non-Chinese speaking people.
We have grouped the first batch of comments into 3 categories. Today’s blog samples some of the problems that workers want addressed in the new law. Our next post, we will look at comments on implementation of existing labor laws. In our final post in this series, we will sample comments on the details of the new draft law.
Our goal is to let the comments speak for themselves, but we recommend reading our report, Behind the Great Wall for a better understanding of the proposed draft law.
It’s our hope to bring more of the voices of ordinary Chinese workers to our readers in the future.
To understand some of the comments it’s important to know that Chinese labor law is based on individual or collective contracts between workers and employers. (The bloggers sometimes use the phrases, “work units” and “employing units”) Each worker is supposed to be covered by an individual or collective contract, but often they aren’t. And when they are covered, the contracts are often ignored. The new law proposes to extend contracts to everyone and provide guidelines for the duration and coverage of the contracts. The law also sets out other basic workplace standards on a range of issues.
Here are some comments.
Re: Draft Law In low-paying industries, those who are injured, particularly those who are injured slowly over a long period of time, cannot obtain medical treatment because the medical fees (subsidy) are too high for their incomes to cover both living fees and limited medical supplies. If we face a removal of the labor contract, those who are currently receiving medical treatment will need compensation, or at least some form of care. This group of people is not a majority, but they rely on care in order to survive. I hope we can take them into special consideration.