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A small step forward but still a long way to go for trade unions in China

It is probably the smallest trade union in the world, but the establishment of a two person union in a small privatized factory on the outskirts of Beijing last month still represents a step forward for China’s workers.

Chilean mine rescue leads to soul searching in China

The inspirational rescue of 33 Chilean miners, broadcast live around the world this week, has been met with mixed feelings in China. While sharing in the joy of the miners’ liberation from ten weeks underground, many in China are asking what would have happened if the workers had been trapped in a Chinese mine.

Collective bargaining and raising wages may be in China’s strategic interests

Although Chinese policymakers are very weary of "instability", they may not necessarily see workers demands for higher wages as a bad thing.

Mine bosses quick to countermand government order to go underground

The bosses of a privately-owned coal mine in Guangxi have devised a cunning plan to evade their forthcoming legal obligation to accompany miners underground during work shifts – they have selected and promoted seven junior managers to take their place.

The humanity of Chilean mine saga: a poignant contrast with China

On 5 August 2010, more than 33 miners were trapped deep inside a mine, causing many to fear for the worst. However, remarkably, 17 days later, the miners were found to be still alive, to the relief and joy of their families and countrymen. After reading news stories of the events and watching video, one couldn’t help but be struck by the stark contrasts with Chinese post-incident report coverage:

Are "hometown unions" the best defenders of migrant workers' rights?

Recently in Shaanxi province, 118 migrant workers – who were mainly from Hubei province – were beaten by 300 thugs while staging a protest to get back their back pay at a railway bridge construction project near the historic city of Xi’an. In total, thirty workers were injured, nine severely. But strangely, what has attracted attention to their case is not the horrific scale of violence used by the employer, but the way the dispute was eventually settled.

Foxconn and Elec-Tech – a tale of two factories

As Foxconn was staging its elaborate song and dance show yesterday to convince the world that, after a string of suicides earlier this year, everything was now fine and the workers in its Chinese factories were happy, a Hong Kong activist group released a report on a lesser known factory where appalling work conditions have clearly not improved. In the last year alone, more than 60 workers at Elec-Tech International, a manufacturer of small home appliances, have been injured, many losing fingers and hands while operating antiquated and dangerous machinery at the company’s plant in Zhuhai, according to the report by Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior (SACOM).

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.

People’s Daily cites gap between rich and poor as the most pressing issue in China, but solution still elusive

“I would rather cry in a BMW than smile on the back of my boyfriend's bicycle”. This statement made by a female contestant, Ma Nuo, on a popular dating show has caused condemnation and controversy in China’s blogospere. Ma claims that she was taken out of context, but in any case, she gave a face and a name to rampant materialism, degeneration of values, and the notion that many young people will do anything to join China’s rising affluent elite, who have already become the world’s second largest buyers of luxury goods.

Chongqing moves to address social livelihood issues

Chongqing plans to spend over 300 billion yuan ($44.28 billion USD) on “the ten people’s livelihood issues” (民生十条) over the next year and a half. Of this whopping amount of money, 130 billion yuan will be spent on “resolving rural residents who enter the city’s hukou status” and 70 billion on public housing. Billions of yuan will be spent on increasing farmers’ incomes, micro-loans, health services, rural health care, school security and other programs. Also, notably, 5 billion yuan will be spent on education for “left behind” children. (See Xinhua’s chart for full breakdown).

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