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China Labour Bulletin’s Resource Centre provides readers with a comprehensive introduction to some of the key labour issues in China today: wages, employment, social insurance and discrimination in the workplace. It examines the unique problems faced by rural migrant workers and their children, and it explains how labour disputes are addressed as well as the compensation workers are entitled to in the event of injury or illness.

The resource centre features a wide-range of maps, tables and charts that illustrate the historical trends and the geographic distribution of wage and employment data. It sets out the main legal and legislative provisions affecting each issue and discusses their effectiveness in protecting workers’ interests. In addition, CLB offers a series of recommendations on how the legislative and policy framework can be improved.

Wage levels in China have risen continually over the last two decades but disparities between geographic regions, industrial sectors and amongst employees within the same company have increased even more. Wage increases for China’s lowest paid workers have often been eroded by higher living costs, while wage arrears remain a chronic and widespread problem.

Every employee in China is supposed to have a pension, medical and unemployment insurance, and a range of other welfare benefits. In reality, the system has failed to provide workers, rural migrant workers in particular, with the social security they need and are legally entitled to.

Discrimination on the basis of gender, age, social origin, health, ethnicity etc. is endemic and still widely tolerated in the workplace in China. Over the last decade, the Chinese government has sought to provide employees with greater legal protection against discrimination but these laws remain deficient in administration, effectiveness, and coverage.

There are an estimated 274 million rural migrant workers in China, making up more than one third of the entire working population. They have been the engine of China’s spectacular economic growth over the last three decades but remain marginalized and their children have limited access to education and healthcare.

China has well-defined procedures for the resolution of labour disputes, involving mediation, arbitration and litigation. However labour dispute cases can easily get delayed or derailed, and the system is biased towards individual cases, meaning that most collective disputes are resolved informally and only after workers take industrial action.