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Analysis and Commentary

Time to Pay the Bill: China’s obligation to the victims of pneumoconiosis

Two decades of unchecked economic growth has produced an occupational disease crisis in China that requires urgent action from the government.

An estimated six million workers in China, predominately poor migrants from the countryside, have already contracted the debilitating and deadly lung disease, pneumoconiosis. It has ruined their lives and left their families impoverished and mired in debt. Whole communities in remote parts of China have been devastated by this entirely preventable disease but, as yet, the central government in Beijing has done little to help.

TIME TO PAY THE BILL from Workers Path on Vimeo.

China Labour Bulletin calls on the Chinese government to accept its responsibility for the epidemic and act to ensure that all victims are properly compensated. In our third comprehensive report on pneumoconiosis in China, Time to Pay the Bill, we highlight the efforts of the workers who have been fighting for justice, the growing support they have received from the media and civil society, and the wholly inadequate response of local governments who are often ill-equipped to deal with the epidemic. Even the best intentioned local government officials have done little more than rearrange the deckchairs on the Titanic.

CLB recommends that the Chinese government:

  • Conduct a national survey to determine the true extent of the pneumoconiosis epidemic in China.
  • Draft legislation that would remove all legal impediments for workers with pneumoconiosis and ensure they get the occupational disease benefits they are entitled to.
  • Establish a special compensation fund that can guarantee the medical and living expenses of all workers with pneumoconiosis.
  • Take wide-ranging preventative measures to ensure that the pneumoconiosis epidemic is eradicated at source.

Time to Pay the Bill: China’s obligation to the victims of pneumoconiosis is formally published on Sunday 28 April, the International Labour Organization World Day for Safety and Health at Work. This is the day workers around the world commemorate the victims of work accidents and occupational disease and urge all governments to take action.