Beijing ups labor protection

Apr 16 2008 by Derek Torres Print This Article

With the pressure of the upcoming Olympic Games keeping the spotlight on China for sundry reasons, it was just a question of time before we started to see concrete changes in Beijing. One such example is the creation of several new "super ministries", most notably a Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security.

What does this mean? For starters, it means that foreign companies looking to take advantage of perceived laxness in the Chinese labor market may have a more difficult time of it. With presumably improved government oversight, labor laws currently on the books are more likely to be enforced or at least mean fewer attempts made to circumvent those laws.

This new government entity is actually the combination of two existing government ministries, whose aims are to better enforce current labor laws, especially the new Labor Contract laws. A number of foreign multinationals have shown to be in non-compliance of these new labor laws, notably food manufacturers Kraft and Danone.

What this means for the rank and file employee in China remains to be seen. Will non-compliance simply mean a hefty fine levied or can offending companies expect to change their ways? With so much attention on China at the moment, perhaps it might mean some of the latter, but I wouldn't hold my breath once the games are over and things return to the status quo.