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China’s next generation of workers must evolve or be left behind.
Strikes by bus drivers are a regular occurrence in China, with drivers in one city or another suspending services in protests at pay and working conditions just about every week: Not so in Singapore where there has not been a strike of any description since the 1960s. Not until last week, that is, when nearly 200 Chinese bus drivers went out on strike over unequal pay.Photograph of Serangoon Gardens dormitory courtesy of Stephanie Chok.
Xiong Gaolin is one of the lucky ones: a victim of occupational disease in China who has actually received reasonable compensation. However, it took him nearly four years to get that money and there are still issues left unresolved. Xiong could have just accepted part-payment but, like many other workers with occupational illness in China, he is determined to fight on until justice is finally done.
The man who revealed the deaths of five homeless children in a bin this week, sparking soul-searching across China, has been taken away by officials, his supporters have said. The boys, who were found dead in the south-western province of Guizhou, were killed by carbon monoxide poisoning, apparently after lighting charcoal in an attempt to stay warm overnight.
The family of a badly injured worker demand justice from the world’s largest maker of electronics at an arbitration hearing in Shenzhen. Frontpage photograph of Foxconn factory in Shenzhen by CLB.
The factories that have powered China’s economic miracle are reeling from the global slowdown, presenting the incoming leadership in Beijing with a restless workforce at a defining moment in the country’s growth story.
China, the manufacturing hub of the world, is in danger of losing that title. Its population is aging fast as its one-child policy, begun in the 1970s, begins to bite. This, in turn, could lead to a huge labor shortfall by 2050, according to experts.
Unemployment is arguably the most important, but least well measured, factor in China’s economy.
Guangzhou’s train station was a depressing sight. It was nearly midnight and the day’s waves of travelers had receded, leaving a tidemark of litter on the concrete floor. The place was filthy and cold. Many of the city’s jobless migrants had come to spend the night here. They arrived in groups of seven or eight, men and women from Guangxi and Yunnan, mostly in their thirties and forties, pulling heavy plastic bags of personal belongings across the station floor. They’d search for a corner and sit, leaning against their bags. Some dozed off quickly, weary after a day spent walking around the city looking for work. Others kept their eyes wide open, on the watch for security officers.
Geoff Crothall reports on the remarkable success of workers’ movements in China


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