asian labour news august summary

Asian Labour News published their monthly report on labour-related news for China a couple of days ago. This site is an unparalleled source of information on the state of labour in China, and is updated several times daily, reporting in an impartial and non-polemical way. The most upsetting thing though is the daily unending roll of workplace deaths and gratuitous exploitation of people who have few people of influence advocating for them. It’s not all grim though, and like Andrés Gentry’s piece below is another must-read.

The major labour-related news out of China during August was about the migrant worker shortage. However, it was also a month that initiatives designed to improve health and safety came relatively thick and fast. And lots more. I’ve categorised stories for August under five titles: i) occupational health and safety, ii) migrant workers, iii) workers and working conditions, iv) labour law, industrial relations, trade unions, and related issues, and v) standoffs, shootouts and barricades.


The statistics for accidents in the 7 months to July were not encouraging: 2,346 accidents per day caused 350 deaths. The numbers were approximately the same for the same period in 2003. In addition, there were 83 serious accidents (accidents causing 10 deaths or above) that resulted in 1,301 deaths. Compared with the same period last year there was a decrease of 168 deaths, but the number of serious accidents rose by 3. Xinhua also reported that industrial accidents cause more than 200 billion yuan in economic losses per year.

In coal mining, the figures are as equally depressing. In one of the better English-language stories on coal mining in China, the author restated the statistic that 14 miners die per day in coal mines alone.


Disgruntled explosives expert blows up coal mine in revenge after boss – with whose wife he’s had an affair – rejects request for back pay; expert subsequently holes up in destroyed mine for 9 days holding off armed police by living off provisions stolen from local stores. If it happened in America there’d already be a mini-series.

Workers in Chongqing barricaded themselves in their factory after the government refused to look into how the manager was able to sell it for 10% of its true market value. The standoff between workers and security forces lasted for 13 days before they were ousted. This is not particularly unusual, but such stories rarely make it into print.

asian labour news

Asian Labour News is a source of labour issues in China and Southern Asia which is daily read for me, which at times seems to be an endless roll-call of deaths and injuries in mines and other shoddy industrial practices. They have just published China: A summary of labour-related news for July 2004, and maybe it’s not all grim.

It’s hard sometimes to see beyond the tragedies, but a story in China Energy Online that mentioned Chai Jiumao, Managing director of the Shanxi Fenxi Mining Group, provides some small glimmer of hope. Chai said his company has invested more than 100 million yuan in 2002 and 2003 to install safety equipment such as gas monitoring and controlling system for its new coal mines. The Beijing Morning News announced, also, that the city aimed to eliminate small coal mines with poor safety conditions and frequent accidents. Later in the month, Beijing News announced that the city would in fact close all township and village coal mines by 2010.

In further positive news, Beijing announced it would develop a rescue centre for workplace safety, mining and dangerous chemicals. Specialised rescue teams for construction and chemical accidents will be set up and given specialized training.