China tackles workers' rights

Jul 30 2007 by Derek Torres Print This Article

The times, they are a changin' in China. Now, if you'll forgive me the worn-out, lame use of the Bob Dylan classic, let's take a closer look at what's going on in the Chinese workplace these days.

As a recent article on Ethical Corporation explains, the Chinese have taken steps to reduce worker exploitation, which is a particularly problem among migrant workers.

This new contract law, among other provisions, prohibits employers from trying to use loopholes to avoid paying the cost of employees (not so much in terms of salary, but this is in reference to social charges, such as insurance payments). In fact, China is making a push to discourage companies from using temporary labor and to instead hire more full-time employees.

While this is very noble, it's also currently only paying lip service to the idea of workers' rights. While China may surpass the US in terms of work protection on paper, the reality is that existing labor laws simply are not enforced. So why should we expect these new provisions to be policed any differently?

Let's hope that China takes enforcement of these laws a bit more seriously than it has previous labor laws and other human rights issues. The track record isn't good, but let's give Beijing the chance to prove us wrong on this issue.