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Drivers’ license seen by some workers as the ticket to upward mobility

It is not just the infamous game show contestant, Ma Nuo, who would rather have a BMW than a bicycle. There are about 140 million legal drivers in China, nearly half of whom got their license in the last five years. Being able to drive is seen by some as just as valuable a skill in China as speaking English or writing software, it is something that opens doors for you. It is a sign of ambition and foreword thinking.

Echoes of workers’ struggle in apartheid-era South Africa in China’s factories today

China and South Africa are of course historically, socially and economically very different but the similarities in the development of strike action in Durban in the 1970s, where one strike led to more than one hundred others, and the strikes in the Pearl River Delta today do invite examination.

Partial victory for Honda workers suggests a reasonably healthy state of labour relations

As the week-long strike at Honda Lock faded today, the picture that emerges is one of a relatively healthy and dynamic system of labour relations, albeit one that is still far from ideal. Emboldened by the success of strikes at two other Honda components plants, the workers at Honda Lock had asked for a wage increase of around 70 percent. After protracted negotiations and intense pressure from the workforce, management finally offered an increase in pay and benefits of around 20 percent. This, combined with attempts by management to recruit new employees, was enough to convince the majority of workers to return to the production line on Monday morning.

Foxconn’s latest pay offer comes with strings attached

Foxconn still doesn’t get it! If you are going to increase the basic pay of your employees to 2,000 yuan a month, then just increase the basic wage – do not make it conditional on passing a three-month performance evaluation. Basic pay is by definition “basic.” You should not have to perform really well to get a basic salary; you should get a bonus in addition to your basic wage if you perform well.

Kunming slams the door on migrant workers

While cities like Shenzhen and Shanghai have gradually made life easier for migrant workers over the least few years by easing restrictions on residency, education and healthcare, the southwestern city of Kunming has just taken a massive step backwards and announced plans to ban all migrants from employment unless they have already obtained a temporary residence permit, and lived and worked in the city for more than a year.

Will the Palermo Protocol help China’s victims of forced labour?

On 26 December last year, without much fanfare, China’s National People’s Congress ratified the United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, one of two anti-trafficking protocols adopted by the UN in Palermo in 2000. The protocol is primarily concerned with transnational trafficking and is broadly in line with Beijing’s high profile efforts to crack down on the trafficking of women into prostitution and the trafficking of children. However, it has a very broad definition of trafficking and could, if implemented fully, be of great help to the victims of forced labour inside China.

Life in Gansu’s villages goes from bad to worse

Life has always been hard for the villagers of Gulang county in Gansu. But now it has got a lot worse. Many of the young men who went down the mines in order to earn a little extra cash for their families are now middle-aged men suffering from the chronic and fatal lung disease pneumoconiosis. They are unable to work and are crippled by debt from their medical bills.

Once again local government picks up the wage tab for failed business

The news today that the Shenzhen government has started paying out the wages owed by failed courier service DDS should not come as a surprise to anyone. Ever since DDS abruptly closed down last week, owing thousands of workers millions of yuan in unpaid wages, employees and company clients across the Pearl River Delta have been on the streets, staging demonstrations and demanding redress.

Rural migrant children at risk in city schools

Two recent incidents have highlighted, once again, the dangers faced by migrant children in urban schools. On 17 January, a toddler died in a fire at an unlicensed kindergarten in Beijing, and yesterday Xinhua reported that the headmaster of a private school for the children of migrant workers in Nanning, Guangxi, had been arrested for beating a student and breaking his arm.

Death imitates art in China’s coal mines

The similarities are chilling. In the multi-award winning movie Blind Shaft (盲井), two miners trick young migrants into working with them as their “relative” before killing them and extorting compensation from the mine boss. In a case reported by the domestic Chinese media on 26 December, a group of criminals murdered at least 17 young men in coal mines across the country before demanding compensation from their bosses.

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