Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Labour discontent in China

In China, labour discontent over low wages and working conditions is under the spotlight. Angry workers have gone on strike in a number of factories owned by Taiwanese and Japanese companies.

There are worries that the labour unrest can potentially snowball into a major social crisis for the government as well as the industry. The issue has become so hot that China's premier Wen Jiabao has urged better treatment of particularly migrant workers.

Here are some of the stories doing the rounds in the local and international media:

Honda, which was hit by labour strikes in its China plants, says the company was surprised by the strike and that it needs to improve communication with employees. Honda's rival Japanese car maker Toyota says that it regularly talks to workers for better understanding of each other.

This story says that Taiwanese companies which have been at the core of Chinese industrial development over the last 30 years, are not heading home as labour unrest in China heralds an era of rising labour costs.

A New York Times story says that the current labour movement is China is independent of government-controlled unions, a trend with hugely political dimensions in a country where organising labour outside the government-controlled union is prohibited.

Honda workers are even demanding the right to form their own union, an unprecedented situation in China's labour market.

And this report predicts that the days of cheap labour in China are numbered now.

And this report suggests that rising labour costs will ultimately force factories to move closer to labour sources, and working conditions will become more humane. The report quotes a local expert as saying: "The biggest losers will be coastal governments that side with the factories to protect their revenues, if they refuse to change."

And this newspaper report in India hopes that China's loss will be India's gain.

Wall Street Journal reports that rising labor costs in China are forcing U.S. apparel and accessories retailers, such as AnnTaylor Stores Corp. and Coach Inc., to consider relocating at least some of their production to countries with cheaper work forces.

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