Dec 12, 2016
The Chinese economic miracle of the last three decades has been powered by millions of people transitioning out of agriculture and into urban industrial jobs, transforming labor relations in the process. Legal mechanisms have struggled to keep pace with the frictions and challenges that accompanied marketization and the fastest urbanization in history. Progress in legislating legal protections for workers is often hampered by problems of implementation and employer preferences for unofficial mediation. New research suggests that labor unrest is on the rise, and the gap between legal needs and services remains substantial. Even though China’s Labor Law has been on the books since 1994 and was revised and updated in 2008, problems of wage arrears, workplace injuries, and illegal subcontracting persist. The effectiveness of attempts to curtail employer misconduct is not only an essential question for working class Chinese, but is also of great interest to a regime that emphasizes stability and social harmony.
Aaron Halegua, an expert on U.S. and Chinese employment law, has written a new, in-depth report on the legal challenges confronting Chinese workers. In Who Will Represent China’s Workers? Lawyers, Legal Aid and the Enforcement of Labor Rights (October, 2016), Mr. Halegua looks at the structural causes of labor abuses, and offers policy solutions that would bolster legal protections for workers. In a December 1, 2016 interview in New York City, Mr. Halegua shared his findings and discussed the future of Chinese labor law with the National Committee’s Senior Director for Education Programs Margot E. Landman.
The National Committee on U.S.-China Relations is the leading nonprofit nonpartisan organization that encourages understanding of China and the United States among citizens of both countries.