Complaints about labour law in China have been increasing

strikes

Over the past 20 years, China’s GDP has considerably been going up (10 355 billion dollars in 2014, 18 412 billion dollars for European Union for example) and today, China is the second largest economic power in the world. Thanks to the economic growth, work conditions, especially in factories, have been improving. However, they remain very low and many Chinese workers still have poor work conditions. That is why, some of them have started to complain about that.

China has the largest workforce in the world and about 50% of total manufactured products come from China. A lot of workers, despite the economic growth, still suffer from overexploitation. Many of them work 60 hours per week and are very poor. Their wages are low and their managers do not treat them well. But most of them are afraid of resigning because it was the only job that they found. It is not easy to find a job for Chinese workers, particularly for them who come from countryside and who do not have any diploma, so they accept any job offer in spite of poor work conditions. For instance, employees at Foxconn, the company that manufactures iPhones for Apple and other technological devices, work very hard under deplorable conditions. In this company, the suicide rate is very high and it incredibly is under the average in China.

Therefore, some work independent centres have been emerging over the 10 past years in the country, as an alternative to trade unions controlled by the government. Also, in 2015, 2775 manifestations were registered. It shows that Chinese workers are more and more willing to protest against the government in order to defend their labour law. Globalization helps them to be conscious about that, showing the work conditions and lifestyles in developed western countries. Nevertheless, the power of Chinese government still is very strong and repression is fierce and violent. If somebody demonstrates against his company or the government, he will risk going to jail or having severe punishment. Thus, it limits initiatives of workers to complain.

In conclusion, labour law in China and work conditions still are much lower than in Europe or in the USA, and a lot of workers have found out this. In consequences, some revolts have started, the number of strikes has been increasing and some movements have been created to defend labour rights. But, repression led by the government is tough and it restricts the magnitude of the movement which is not important enough to really impact the current situation. Is this situation sustainable? How long will it remain like this? We can assume that things will change in the near future and that work conditions in China will improve but we do not exactly know when.

Vincent Tessé


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