Archive for ‘Labour’

27/07/2016

Parliament passes controversial child labour bill | Reuters

Parliament on Tuesday approved a controversial law that would allow children to work for family businesses, despite widespread concern by the United Nations and other rights advocates that it will push more children into labour.

A week after the bill was passed by the Rajya Sabha, the Lok Sabha approved the measure that brings a raft of changes to a three-decade-old child labour prohibition law. The bill now goes for the President’s assent before becoming law.

The U.N. Children’s Agency (UNICEF) as well as many others have raised alarm over two particular amendments – permitting children to work for their families and reducing the number of banned professions for adolescents.

A 2015 report by the International Labour Organization (ILO) put the number of child workers in India ages 5 to 17 at 5.7 million, out of 168 million globally.

More than half of India’s child workers are employed in agriculture and more than a quarter in manufacturing – embroidering clothes, weaving carpets or making match sticks. Children also work in restaurants, shops and hotels and as domestic workers.The new legislation extends a ban on child labour under 14 to all sectors. Previously, only 18 hazardous occupations and 65 processes such as mining, gem cutting and cement manufacturing were outlawed.

It also stiffens penalties for those employing children, doubling jail terms to two years and increasing fines to 50,000 rupees ($740) from 20,000 rupees ($300).

While child rights groups have welcomed such changes, there has been concern over other amendments proposed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s government.

For example, children will be allowed to work in family businesses, outside of school hours and during holidays, and in entertainment and sports if it does not affect their education.

Also, children 15 to 18 will be permitted to work, except in mines and industries where they would be exposed to inflammable substances and hazardous processes.

The government says the exemptions aim to strike a balance between education and India’s economic reality, in which parents rely on children to help with farming or artisanal work to fight poverty or pass on a family trade.

“The purpose of this very act is that we should be able to practically implement it,” Labour and Employment Minister Bandaru Dattatreya told parliament. “That’s why we are giving some exemptions.”UNICEF had urged India to exclude family work from the proposed law and include an “exhaustive list” of hazardous occupations.

“To strengthen the Bill and provide a protective legal framework for children, UNICEF India strongly recommends the removal of ‘children helping in family enterprises’,” it said in a statement on Monday.

“This will protect children from being exploited in invisible forms of work, from trafficking and from boys and girls dropping out of school due to long hours of work,” it said.

Source: Parliament passes controversial child labour bill | Reuters

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24/06/2016

Are fears of mass unemployment in China overblown? | Reuters

Despite its sputtering economy – or perhaps because of it – China’s labor market may be able to provide more jobs for laid off workers than many think.

The working age population is shrinking by several million each year and the number of workers willing to migrate beyond their home province is falling, leaving jobs available for those willing to travel.

This suggests concerns about mass unemployment as China cuts down its industrial capacity and the risk that this could lead to social unrest may be overdone.

Take Li Xi, 34, for instance.After losing his job of 15 years at Highsee Iron and Steel in the slow-growing northern province of Shanxi, Li was not out of work for long.

Encouraged by friends to join them at an electronics factory 1,000 km (620 miles) to the south, he made the journey to Suzhou near Shanghai. The rest was easy.”On the first day I did a health check, and on the second day I was working,” Li said.

China’s economic growth slowed to a 25-year-low in 2015 of less than 7 percent and Beijing has flagged layoffs as it reduces massive surplus industrial capacity and gears the economy more to services and consumption.

Sources said in March that China was expecting to lay off 5-6 million state workers in the next two to three years as it curbs production capacity and pollution in rust-belt provinces.

While there is scant official data to build an accurate picture of Chinese unemployment, Chang Chun Hua, China economist at Nomura, said the jobs market can handle the unemployment pressures for now.

The working age population has been shrinking since 2012. Last year, the number of people between the ages of 16 and 59 shrank by 4.87 million, government statistics show. In 2014, the age group contracted by 3.71 million.

At the same time, the government says a higher-than-expected 5.77 million jobs were created between January and May this year.

“In general, the current unemployment pressure is still manageable for the Chinese government,” Hua said.

Source: Are fears of mass unemployment in China overblown? | Reuters

27/05/2016

Foxconn replaces ‘60,000 factory workers with robots’ – BBC News

If manufacturers like Foxconn and high street companies like McDonald’s and, no doubt soon, offices too start replacing humans with robots, where will it all end? Where will all the ‘surplus’ people find jobs and pay.  And, eventually, who will be able to afford the iPhones, the hamburgers and so forth?  Won’t it be self-defeating in the long run for the employers with no customers or, at best, not enough customers to keep all the robots occupied and earning their keep.

“One factory has “reduced employee strength from 110,000 to 50,000 thanks to the introduction of robots”, a government official told the South China Morning Post.

Xu Yulian, head of publicity for the Kunshan region, added: “More companies are likely to follow suit.”

China is investing heavily in a robot workforce.

In a statement to the BBC, Foxconn Technology Group confirmed that it was automating “many of the manufacturing tasks associated with our operations” but denied that it meant long-term job losses.

“We are applying robotics engineering and other innovative manufacturing technologies to replace repetitive tasks previously done by employees, and through training, also enable our employees to focus on higher value-added elements in the manufacturing process, such as research and development, process control and quality control.

“We will continue to harness automation and manpower in our manufacturing operations, and we expect to maintain our significant workforce in China.”

Since September 2014, 505 factories across Dongguan, in the Guangdong province, have invested 4.2bn yuan (£430m) in robots, aiming to replace thousands of workers.

Kunshan, Jiangsu province, is a manufacturing hub for the electronics industry.

Economists have issued dire warnings about how automation will affect the job market, with one report, from consultants Deloitte in partnership with Oxford University, suggesting that 35% of jobs were at risk over the next 20 years.

Former McDonald’s chief executive Ed Rensi recently told the US’s Fox Business programme a minimum-wage increase to $15 an hour would make companies consider robot workers.

“It’s cheaper to buy a $35,000 robotic arm than it is to hire an employee who is inefficient, making $15 an hour bagging French fries,” he said.”

Source: Foxconn replaces ‘60,000 factory workers with robots’ – BBC News

29/02/2016

China expects to lay off 1.8 million workers in coal, steel sectors | Reuters

China said on Monday it expects to lay off 1.8 million workers in the coal and steel industries, or about 15 percent of the workforce, as part of efforts to reduce industrial overcapacity, but no timeframe was given.

It was the first time China has given figures that underline the magnitude of its task in dealing with slowing growth and bloated state enterprises.

Yin Weimin, the minister for human resources and social security, told a news conference that 1.3 million workers in the coal sector could lose jobs, plus 500,000 from the steel sector. China’s coal and steel sectors employ about 12 million workers, according to data published by the National Bureau of Statistics.

“This involves the resettlement of a total of 1.8 million workers. This task will be very difficult, but we are still very confident,” Yin said.

For China’s stability-obsessed government, keeping a lid on unemployment and any possible unrest that may follow has been a top priority.

The central government will allocate 100 billion yuan ($15.27 billion) over two years to relocate workers laid off as a result of China’s efforts to curb overcapacity, officials said last week.

Source: China expects to lay off 1.8 million workers in coal, steel sectors | Reuters

20/02/2016

A slow awakening | The Economist

AROUND 270m people have left China’s countryside to work in urban areas, many of them entrusting their children to the care of a lone parent, grandparents, relatives or other guardians.

By 2010 there were 61m of these “left-behind children”, according to the All-China Women’s Federation. In a directive released on February 14th, the government has at last shown that it recognises the problems caused by the splintering of so many families. The document acknowledges that there has been a “strong reaction” from the public to the plight of affected children. It describes improving their lot as “urgent”.

That is clearly right. There have been numerous stories in recent years revealing the horrors some of these children endure. Last year four siblings left alone in the south-western province of Guizhou apparently committed suicide by drinking pesticide. Numerous sex-abuse cases involving left-behind children have come to light.

The new proposals look sensible enough: minors may not be abandoned entirely; local institutions such as schools and hospitals must do more to notify the authorities of cases of abuse or neglect; social workers should monitor the welfare of left-behind children. Sadly, however, the government’s suggested remedies will achieve little. They largely replicate recent laws and policies designed to protect children (not just left-behind ones), which have been almost universally unenforced. It is already illegal to allow minors to live alone, for example. There is no indication that the new recommendations will be made law or implemented any more rigorously.

The new scheme mentions the importance of giving migrants urban hukou, or household-registration certificates, which are needed to gain access to public services such as education and health care. Most migrants leave their children in the countryside because they do not have such papers. In December the government announced plans to make it easier for migrants to gain urban hukou privileges. But few casual labourers are likely to fulfil the still-onerous conditions that must be met to qualify.

A study published last year by researchers at Stanford University found that among more than 140,000 children assessed in areas such as education, health and nutrition, left-behind ones performed as well as or better than those living in the countryside with both parents. But both kinds of children lagged far behind those who grow up in cities.

Source: A slow awakening | The Economist

09/06/2015

Modi to launch India’s biggest labour overhaul in decades | Reuters

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is preparing to launch India’s biggest overhaul of labour laws since independence in a bid to create millions of manufacturing jobs, at the risk of stirring up a political backlash that could block other critical reforms.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi waves towards his supporters during a rally in Mathura, May 25, 2015.  REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

Three officials at the central labour ministry told Reuters that the ministry was drafting a bill for the upcoming parliamentary session that proposes to loosen strict hire-and-fire rules and make it tougher for workers to form unions.

The changes, if approved by parliament, will be the biggest economic reform since India opened its economy in 1991, but it is likely to meet stiff opposition in parliament and from labour activists.

The prime minister enjoys a majority in the Lok Sabha, but not the Rajya Sabha, hobbling his ability to pass politically contentious measures.

That handicap has stymied his efforts to make it easier for businesses to buy farmland and convert Asia’s third-largest economy into a common market.

Rajiv Biswas, Asia-Pacific chief economist at IHS Global Insight, said Modi had little option but to push ahead with the measures.

“Without these reforms, the economy would stagnate, and frustrated investors would look elsewhere,” he said.

“You cannot make political opposition an excuse for not taking tough decisions.”

Since taking office in May last year, Modi has taken a series of incremental steps to make labour laws less onerous for businesses, but fear of a union-led political backlash made him leave the responsibility for unshackling the labour market with Indian states.

He let his party’s governments in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh take the lead in this area.

Encouraged by a successful and peaceful implementation of the measures in those states, the federal labour ministry now intends to replicate them at the national level, one of the ministry officials said.

Manish Sabharwal, one of the brains behind Rajasthan’s labour reforms and co-founder of recruitment firm Teamlease, said the federal administration would have been better off without attempting these changes.

“Let states carry out these changes and save your political energy for other policy reforms,” he said.

via Modi to launch India’s biggest labour overhaul in decades | Reuters.

08/05/2015

For returning migrant workers, a changed and desolate homeland|Society|chinadaily.com.cn

As the first wave of Chinese migrant workers return to live in their hometowns, they may find that life has changed dramatically from when they first left, a PhD student in Shanghai University revealed in his journal published in The Paper.

For returning migrant workers, a changed and desolate homeland

Rural areas tend to evoke empty villages where the working population has left, but the fact is that more and more middle-aged migrant workers are coming back home in recent years, said Wang Leiguang, a native of Luotian county of Hubei province who impressed readers with his “Journal of returning to hometown” during the Spring Festival.

Ever since China’s reform and opening-up in the late 1970s, waves of farmers left their land and worked in cities, where they could enjoy higher incomes but faced various disadvantages.

After working in cities for decades, they feel tired and no longer welcome in the city. Most of them have built new houses in their hometowns and have some savings. More importantly, they have to look after their grandchildren, as Wang elaborated in his article.

The year-on-year growth rate in the number of migrant workers has been declining since 2010, said a report released by the National Bureau of Statistics in late April. Since 2004, China has encountered a continuous labor shortage and many migrant workers aged above 50 have returned to their hometowns, as Wang has noticed in his hometown, Luotian.

However, returning home doesn’t mean a return to farming. Since most young laborers moved to the cities, the remote farmlands have become wastelands no one wants to reclaim. Meanwhile machines have replaced manual work in the remaining farms. Even so, many don’t really care about the harvest and some even give up their land.

City life has apparently estranged them from the farmland.

Meanwhile, the pace of urbanization in China during the past 25 years has seen the decline of many villages. As people have drifted away to urban areas, the countryside has become stripped of community and culture.

Unlike twenty years ago when villagers could enjoy various activities such as temple fairs, outdoor movies and opera performances, there are almost no cultural activities these days, as rural people left for cities to find better-paid jobs. When those migrant workers return, they find that villagers have less contact with each other, even between neighbors. Most of them stay at home watching TV.

Rural life is lonely and dull. Wang described the common sight of an old man or woman sitting in the sun at the gate every day, greeting acquaintances when they pass by, as if waiting for death to come.

Increasing social bonds may be a solution to fight the alienation in the countryside, Wang suggested. He found that villagers communicated more and felt happier during their efforts to build a road.

Zhou Jinming, an agricultural official with the Yulin government of Shaanxi province, suggested that the government should focus on supporting large villages by improving conditions, such as setting up libraries and clinics.

via For returning migrant workers, a changed and desolate homeland|Society|chinadaily.com.cn.

08/04/2015

China Aims to Soothe Labor Unrest – China Real Time Report – WSJ

As slowing growth fuels labor unrest in the world’s second-largest economy, China’s top leadership is pushing for greater efforts to foster harmony across its increasingly agitated workforce. As the WSJ’s Chun Han Wong reports;

In a recent directive, top Communist Party and government officials called on party cadres and bureaucrats across the country to “make the construction of harmonious labor relations an urgent task,” to ensure “healthy economic development” and to consolidate the party’s “governing status.”

The policy paper was issued late last month and has circulated widely among Chinese labor scholars, lawyers and activists, who say it signals Beijing’s growing concern that festering labor tensions could soon threaten social stability or even weaken the party’s grip on power.

With China “currently in a period of economic and social transition,” labor relations have become “increasingly pluralistic, labor tensions have entered a period of increased prominence and frequency, and the incidence of labor disputes remains high,” the paper said, according to a copy reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. It cited problems including unpaid wages to China’s legions of migrant workers, growing protests and other issues.

Labor scholars say the paper—titled “the Communist Party Central Committee and the State Council’s opinion on the construction of harmonious labor relations”—marks a rare move by Beijing to formally outline policy priorities for tackling worker unrest. It also comes after Premier Li Keqiang pledged in early March, during an annual policy speech, to curb unpaid wages for migrant workers.

“The government is acknowledging the reality of rising worker unrest and wants to make this a bigger priority,” said Wang Jiangsong, a professor at the China Institute of Industrial Relations in Beijing. “But it also lacks specifics on implementation—it remains to be seen how this would work on the ground.”

via China Aims to Soothe Labor Unrest – China Real Time Report – WSJ.

13/03/2015

Bargaining With Chinese Characteristics: Labor Group Defends Practices – China Real Time Report – WSJ

When Chinese Premier Li Keqiang omitted a reference to collective bargaining in an annual policy speech last week, labor scholars worried that Beijing may be backing away from a much-needed policy tool for dealing with rising industrial unrest.

China’s state-controlled trade unions are seeking to allay such concerns. They are pledging to keep promoting collective bargaining in a way that calms labor tensions without derailing growth in the country’s already-slowing economy.

“Collective wage bargaining is something we will continue to promote,” said Li Shouzhen, a senior official at the All-China Federation of Trade Unions, or ACFTU. “It is a tried-and-tested process that’s practiced by successful enterprises.”

via Bargaining With Chinese Characteristics: Labor Group Defends Practices – China Real Time Report – WSJ.

20/02/2015

Big data reveals movement of New Year travelers – China – Chinadaily.com.cn

Beijing and other first-tier cities in China remain the major sources of outflux of passengers in this Spring Festival travel rush but the capital is also one of the top three destinations for the influx of travelers, according to search engine giant Baidu.com.

Big data reveals movement of New Year travelers

This is an indication that an increasing number of people who work or study away from their hometowns are choosing to invite their families to celebrate Spring Festival at big cities rather than head home.

According to the latest data until Monday morning, the top five cities that saw most outflow of passengers were Beijing, Shenzhen, Shanghai, Dongguan and Guangzhou, where there are huge number of migrant workers.

The top five cities of influx of travelers were Chongqing, Ganzhou in Jiangxi province, Beijing, Yulin in Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, and Fuyang in Anhui province. Apart from Beijing, the other four cities have been major sources of labor flow over the years.

An interactive map by baidu.com shows China’s top 10 cities with the largest outflux of travelers.

Big data reveals movement of New Year travelers

The trips from Shanghai to Lu’an, and Fuyang, two cities in East Anhui province, were the two busiest travel routes, the data showed.

Beijing to Zhoukou, Central Henan province, and Beijing to Harbin, Northeast Heilongjiang province, were also on the list of the 10 busiest travel routes. The other busy travel routes on the list include Shenzhen to Chongqing in Southwest China, and to Huanggang, Central Hubei province.

The list showed the difference of the sources of migrant workers in the three first-tier cities.

Baidu has been tracking the mass movement of people for this year’s Spring Festival, or the Lunar New Year, since February 7, three days after the kick-off of the annual Spring Festival travel rush, also known as chunyun in Chinese.

The Ministry of Transport is anticipating an overall holiday-season passenger flow of more than 2.8 billion person-times in this year’s Spring Festival travel, a 3.4 percent growth over 2014.

The interactive map of the research, which can be seen at http://qianxi.baidu.com/, is updated hourly, and has been logging the locations in which data requests were made to its maps service.

via Big data reveals movement of New Year travelers – China – Chinadaily.com.cn.

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