A New China? Some Hope for Optimism for Chinese Labor

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Journal Article
New Labor Forum, 2004, 13 (3), pp. 66 - 75
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Abstract: In the Western press, there have regularly been reports about the plight of Chinese workers toiling for long hours but paid a pittance to make products for export. The reports are not inaccurate, and in point of fact, in a great many factories labor standards have continued to decline. Nevertheless, in the past two decades there have been new developments in the labour arena that can give us cause for quiet optimism. Even a decade ago, there was some reason for optimism, as there had been areas of progress in the status of the union federation during the eighties. Three developments in the decade of the eighties that have had ongoing consequences were: (i) the emergence within the official Chinese trade union organization, the All China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU), of groups of officials and labor journalists who genuinely supported the workers' cause; (ii) the political elite's decision to incorporate the trade unions at different levels in a consultative status in any policy decisions that affect workers' welfare; and (iii) the inclusion of the ACFTU in the drafting of legislation relating to labor issues. Of these three developments, the ACFTU's ability to negotiate successfully to include pro-labor clauses in several important labor-related laws has had the most significant impact.
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