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The aim of CLB's Resource Centre is to give those new to China a general, fact-based, introduction to key labour issues such as: migrant workers, the reform of state-owned enterprises, wages, unemployment, work-related injuries and compensation, labour dispute resolution and labour rights supervision, social security, and labour laws and regulations.
Each section of the Resource Centre provides an analytical and statistical overview of these issues as well as outlining their historical and economic context. There is in addition, a separate section containing standalone comparative statistics, available in PDF format.
Discrimination in the workplace on the basis of gender, age, social origin, health, ethnicity etc. is endemic and still widely tolerated in in China. Over the last decade, the Chinese government has sought to provide employees with greater legal protection against discrimination but these laws remain deficient in administration, effectiveness, and coverage.
The number of labour disputes in China has grown rapidly over the last decade and the country's dispute resolution system is struggling to keep up. Mediation and arbitration committees and the courts are all over-loaded with complaints, forcing the government to adopt new measures to resolve these issues.
Creating an effective social welfare safety net in the era of economic reform has been one of the biggest challenges for the Chinese government. The new Social Insurance Law is supposed to address these issues but many problems with enforcement, transferability and fraud remain.
Migrant workers emerged in China in the 1980s as a by-product of two seemingly opposite policies; the household registration system established in the late 1950s to control internal migration, and the economic reforms initiated in the late 1970s to liberalize and boost the economy.
There are an estimated 110 million migrant workers in China aged between 16 and 40 years old. They left home in the hope of building a better life for themselves and their family, yet when they start a family of their own, they are faced with a stark choice; either take their children to the cities and subject them to institutionalized discrimination, or leave them behind in the countryside in the uncertain care of relatives.
One of the most fundamental changes to the Chinese economy over the last few decades has been the reform of the state-owned enterprises (SOEs). Initiated in 1978, SOE reforms enhanced the economic performance of state enterprises but gave rise to numerous social problems, such as unemployment, labour disputes and social unrest.
Before the economic reforms, unemployment officially did not exist in China. Since the early 1980s, however, unemployment has become one of the most pressing issues facing the government in Beijing. In 2006, although the official unemployment rate remained below five percent, unofficial estimates put it has high as 20 percent.
Wage levels in China have increased continually over the last two decades as the economy has developed and the private sector has created new employment opportunities. However, disparities among geographic regions, industrial sectors and between top executives and ordinary workers have also increased significantly, widening the rich-poor gap. Moreover, wage increases for China’s lowest paid workers have often been eroded by higher costs of living, and the issue of wage arrears remains a serious and unresolved problem throughout the country.
Determining how much an employee should get paid for a work-related injury or occupational illness, and who should pay, can be an incredibly complicated process in China. The basic procedures are quite straightforward, with four basic steps but these steps can multiply rapidly however if at any stage the employer or employee challenges the medical evidence or the assessments and rulings by the local labour and social security authorities.
The uneven economic development of rural and urban areas combined with a large pool of surplus labour has been the main driving force behind the world’s largest internal migration of rural residents to the cities in China.