CHINA Migrant workers, disadvantaged groups, university graduates are mostly affected

Report n° 8 

CHINA 

Author: A labour NGO (1) Date: January 5th, 2021 

1/ What have the consequences of the health crisis for the population been especially for the working class? What has the covid impact been on employment, how many jobs have been lost? 

Most of the workers cannot travel normally, so they cannot do the normal work. Their living standard has dropped a lot. The covid-19 has made the majority of the 200 million working people harder to sustain their livelihood. The business of many big business decline and make workers redundant or reduce wages; the small and medium size enterprises face even harder environments. Travel, food and beverage, transport, wholesale and retail industries are confronted directly. Thus, migrant workers are discouraged to postpone their plan to find work outside. Migrant workers, disadvantaged groups, university graduates are mostly affected. All in all, this pandemic has robbed the job opportunities of 1.6 billion people all over the world. This people are marginalized (migrant workers, precarious labourers). Their lives are destitute. 

2/ Are there any figures available concerning the lives lost of workers in general and particularly front-line workers, including doctors and other hospital staff? 

According to the incomplete official figures, up to 8 April 2020, there are 60 medical workers has fallen in the pandemic fight. In this fight, some were affected by covid19, some died due to other symptoms as a result of fatigue (karoshi) while others met accidents at work. 

Their age ranged from 12 to 72 years old. Of the 60 deaths, 22 of them were directly related to covid19, 28 of them died because of karoshi, heart attacks etc. It is alarming to learn that karoshi deaths overtake the number of covid-19 deaths. 

3/ What measures were taken or not taken by the government to cope with the pandemic? Were any wage deductions imposed by the bosses and governments? 

The measures taken by the government and management are as follows: 

  • Restrict or prohibit market, entertainment or any other assemblies 
  • Stoppage of work, stop business, close schools 
  • Close or freeze all polluted water, food or related commodities 
  • Control or kill all affected animals, poultry. 
  • Close all premises that may cause pandemic. 
  • Wages are reduced directly or indirectly; furlough are imposed without pay or minimum living cost by the management. 

4/ What new attacks against workers’ rights and democracy were launched by the bosses and governments during this year, as they took advantage of the pandemic? 

Most of the management adopt various measures to retrench workers, transfer posts or reduce wages, delay wage payment, impose furlough. Workers are forced to resign. Their living standard and quality of life are very much negatively affected. 

5/ For years, the number of workers in the informal sector has continued to increase. The fight against precarious labour must lead the labour movement to think about organizing these workers. The workers in the informal sector have paid a very heavy price in the health crisis. What has their situation been since March 2020? What reactions has this triggered? 

In recent years, the state sector and the industrial adjustment program have generated a large number of lay off workers. In addition to this, there are millions of surplus migrant workers from the rural areas. Many of them could not find decent work, and because they cannot enjoy unemployment benefits or receive insufficient benefits, they could only find temp or casual work or become hawkers to make a living. Apart from the lowend jobs with little capital or skills, there are other opportunities that requires skills and more investments such as tailoring, car repairing, transport and others. The more advanced ones include very high-level professionals such as doctors, accountants, engineers, and architects. 

6/ Women workers have also been particularly hit. They are the first to lose their jobs, the last to be taken back at their work places when they reopen. They have to take in charge their children deprived of schooling. Domestic violence has increased with the lockdown. What form has it taken? What mobilisations have taken place to defend the rights of working women? 

Because of the ‘lock down’, family isolation has created many instances of domestic violence. Apart from factory closure, social gathering between family members or friends cannot take place at home, between friends without the permission from the authorities. 

Female members suffering from domestic violence should report instantly to the local police. If she cannot report in person because of isolation or other reasons, a close relative can act on her behalf. When the report is done, she should undergo medical treatment and do the assessment. She should keep all the evidences and make a record by photos. The victim can also seek assistance from the local neighborhood or women’s federation offices. She could also apply for a protective order from the people’s court. 

According to the Beijing Human Resource and Social Security Bureau notice, in case a women worker is required to look after her children because of school closure and her spouse is on duty the employing unit cannot refuse her absence from work, cannot reduce her wages and renumeration, and cannot dismiss her because of absence. 

7/ With the new technologies, the capitalists dismantle labour relations, restructure companies and destroy jobs. What are the consequences and what are the threats to labour relations in the coming period? 

Work from home is a no man’s land under the existing labour law. There are no fixed working hours, no rules governing this type of work. In case of any labour dispute the authority tend to decline to intervene. It is a norm now capital is using high tech to exploit and control workers. Thus, workers have to obey the wishes and to rely on the capital. 

8/What were the positions of workers’ organisations and their leaderships during that period? What were the demands? What was their attitude towards the plans designed by the bosses and governments? 

Workers organization is determined to defend worker rights in accordance with the law and would not resort to violent means. Management has always been trying to avoid their legal responsivities, to lower workers’ wages, and to force to voluntary resign by furlough or to take rotation of leaves. 

Workers organization should utilize their knowledge and skills to raise workers’ awareness. 

Workers organization appeal to the government for a better policy not only to lower the social insurance payments for the enterprises but also for the workers.  

(1) Kind of organisation partly tolerated by the authorities