China's labour market_ The ..

China's labour market_ The .. - China's labour market: The...

Info iconThis preview shows pages 1–2. Sign up to view the full content.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
China's labour market The next China As the supply of migrant labour dwindles, the workshop of the world is embarking on a migration of its own Jul 29th 2010 | CHONGQING AND FOSHAN THE angrier they become, the less intimidating they seem. The strikes, stoppages and suicides that have afflicted foreign factories on China’s coast in recent months have shaken the popular image of the country’s workers as docile, diligent and dirt cheap. America’s biggest labour federation, the AFL-CIO, blames imports from China for displacing millions of Americans from their jobs. But in June its president applauded the “courageous young auto workers” who waged a successful strike at a Honda plant in Foshan demanding higher wages. While foreign unions cheer, multinational companies fret. According to UNCTAD, foreigners have invested almost $500 billion in China’s capital stock. Their affiliates employ about 16m people in the country. For a decade this combination has dominated global manufacturing growth, dispatching ever cheaper goods from China’s ports. Of China’s 200 biggest exporters last year, 153 were firms with a foreign stake. But the recent unrest has put Chinese labour at odds with foreign capital. Firms may have to get used to bolshier workers. The number of young adults is set to shrink, which is likely to make China’s factory boys and girls harder to please. But then, as the AFL-CIO points out, China’s workers are due a pay rise: their share of national income has fallen in the past two decades, contributing to China’s low rate of consumption. As pay goes up the country’s domestic market will become more lucrative. Foreign firms that came for the workers will stay for the shoppers. China will become more of a workshop for itself and less of one for the world. The workers are revolting Labour unrest in China is more common than you may think. The country’s courts handled more than 280,000 labour disputes in 2008, according to Outlook Weekly , an official magazine. It is difficult to know if unrest is growing, but the government at least seems to think so. The same source reports that disputes in the first half of 2009 were 30% higher than a year earlier. Guangdong, a favourite province for foreign companies, suffered at least 36 strikes between May 25th and July 12th, according to China Daily , a government newspaper. As students of Karl Marx and of history, China’s party leaders will know that labour movements can begin with economic grievances and end in political revolt. By concentrating people in one place, Marx argued, factories turn a crowd of strangers into a “class”: conscious of its interests, united with each other and against the boss. But workers in China’s coastal factories have hitherto shown little class-consciousness. They migrated from all over the country, jumped from one plant to another and retreated to their villages when times were bad. Their new assertiveness may reflect a labour law introduced in January 2008, which gave workers
Background image of page 1

Info iconThis preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full DocumentRight Arrow Icon
Image of page 2
This is the end of the preview. Sign up to access the rest of the document.

This note was uploaded on 06/09/2011 for the course ECON econ 1001 taught by Professor Wong during the Fall '09 term at HKU.

Page1 / 5

China's labour market_ The .. - China's labour market: The...

This preview shows document pages 1 - 2. Sign up to view the full document.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Ask a homework question - tutors are online