Research Reports on Labour Conditions of Service Sector Workers in China

Page 1

Research Reports on

Labour Conditions of Service Sector Workers in China



Preface: Introduction on Labour Conditions of Service Industries


An Exploratory Research of the Working Conditions in Shenzhen’s Hotel Industry


Research on the Labor Protection of Sanitation Workers in Guangzhou


Preface Introduction on Labour Conditions of Service Industries

In Guangdong Province, most of the labour rights groups work with workers from nearby factories, as Guangdong, being the frontier of reform and open-door policy, was early in developing labour-intensive manufacturing industries which have high concentration of migrant workers. However, we noticed a new trend in recent years. More and more workers approached us for assistance in labour disputes came from the service industries, including cleaning, courier, food and beverage, etc., and some of them used to work in factories which are closed now. Their salary and benefits are similar to those of factory workers, but they face a less stable employment relation. In Shenzhen district, the number of industrial areas packed with factories along the subway lines is decreasing, being replaced by residential areas and entertainment places. The economic focus of the original industrial areas has gradually moved from manufacturing industries to service industries. This is not just a subjective observation, but also reflected in government policies and actual economic figures. In recent years, the third industry or service industry has exceeded manufacturing industry in terms of GDP %, investment amount and taxation amount, and government policies have also inclined towards service industries to create open market and provide supports. According to the 2016 report of the National Bureau of Statistics, service industries have become the largest industry taking up 51.6% of GDP, 11.8% higher than that of manufacturing industry, and contribute to 58.2% of domestic economic growth, 20.8% higher than that of manufacturing industry1 . Since 2011, service industry has surpass the first industry to become the biggest employer in China, and its share in employment continued to rise due to growth of the industry and its high employment density 2. The series of strikes of Walmart staff since 2014 was one of the labour collective actions in China which attracted international attention, after the strike of Honda in Nanhai. As a number of large scale and persistent labour collective actions involved the service industries, such as the strikes by workers at Shenzhen Yantian Port and security guards and caretakers of Guangzhou Hospital of Traditional Chinese Medicine in 2013, and strike by cleaners of Guangzhou University City, labour conditions outside the factories have attracted more attention.

1 〈許劍毅:2016 年我國服務業持續快速增長〉,Renmin Net, 22 January 2017, cn/tjsj/sjjd/201701/t20170122_1456772.html。 2 〈服務業:中國經濟增長的新動力——解讀《2014 年國民經濟和社會發展統計公報》〉,中國資訊網,5 March 2015, 689566.html;李曉超,〈開局之年實 現了良好開局——《2016 年統計公報》評讀〉,國家統計局,28 February 2017, tjsj/sjjd/201702/ t20170228_1467357.html。


Situation of grassroots workers as service industries develop The continuous expansion of service industries is not unique to China. According to the data of the International Labour Organization, employment effect of manufacturing industries is saturated, and service industries of the private sector (including food and beverage, and hotel industries) has the highest growth rate in global economy during the period 2010 to 2013, and also created most new jobs3. In Britain and USA, the expansion started in 1990s, and most of the new jobs in service industries are grassroots low income positions which did not require high skills, and received lower salary and less job security. Jobs of service industries used to require more social skills or technical skills, but as the work procedures are standardized, work arrangement and speed are more and more dependent on technology, which hampered the workers’ bargaining power. Urbanization in China is the main impetus to consumption demand which, combined with government initiatives to contract out public services, created opportunities for expansions for related industries. A large number of grassroots workers appeared in the development of service industries and their working conditions and causes of labour disputes are more diverse compared to labour intensive manufacturing industries. In the past few years, labour rights groups in Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Wuhan, Beijing and other cities have conducted small scale researches on development and labour conditions of service industries and workers in their nearby districts. Research reports on hotel, street cleaning, food and beverage, courier and logistics were produced. Some common observations of this growing workforce were made.

1. Casualization and informalization of employment China’s Law on Employment Contract which came into effect in 2008 has clearly stipulated that employment contracts should be signed between employees and employers to “specify the rights and obligations of the parties to employment contracts, to protect the lawful rights and interests of employees”. Though there were differences on level of understanding on the laws and awareness to defend one’s own rights, workers in a factory often have better idea on “who is my employer”, and are aware of their status as a full-time employee due to the fact that they usually worked in a relatively stable position in an up-to-scale production line. However, casualization and informalization in employment are more often in service industries than manufacturing industries. For example, some service industries employ part-time, sub-contracted and intern workers whose working nature are similar to those of full-time workers, but do not sign formal employment contracts in the name of service learning or service provision (some companies even misled employees to believe that employment contract is not applicable to their employment relations). The practice to confuse employment relations and service provision has directly affected how the employers contribute to ensure stability and protection of employment, and the rights and obligations of each party. Moreover, it is common to observe that employers do not comply with or violate the law, particularly the terms related to working hours, rest days, over-time pay rate, and social security payments. However, most of the workers are nor familiar with labour rights. For examples, most of the workers in hotel industry do not know that working on Saturday should be considered as over-time work and receive double pay; some workers of logistics industry do not have social security in the city they work in but do not consider that an issue as long as the employer reimburse their medical expenses incurred in the city; over 70% of the workers in food and beverage industry do not have employment contract with their employers, and some workers con3 ILO, “World Employment and Social Outlook”, multimedia/maps-and-charts/WCMS_337082/lang--en/index.htm


sidered it an usual practice of their industry and do not want to be abided by the contracts.

2. Poor working conditions According to the statistics of the National Bureau of Statistics, the average wages in service industries have increased during 2008 to 2013, mostly driven by the raise of minimum wage standard4 (note 4). The research findings have shown that basic salary in most service industries is mildly higher than minimum wage standard. This might have been resulted or promoted by some systemic factors. For example, the collective contract on salary of the food and beverage industry of Wuhan stipulated that salary increase should not be lower than 7% during the contract period; in Guangzhou, government also regulate that basic salary of workers in environment hygiene should not be lower than 110% of local minimum wage standard. Nonetheless, the overall salary of workers covered by these researches was still low. There have been various discussions on the lack of transparency in setting minimum wage standard, and its failure to protect decent living standard of workers. In the first and second tier cities, most workers found that the minimum wage standard is irrelevant to their salary level, as even if their basic salary is mildly higher than the minimum wage, it is still insufficient to support livelihood of their families. Besides basic salary, remunerations often include position related subsidies, hot weather subsidies and over-time pay, etc. However, it also means that to earn higher salary, workers have to unconditionally accept over-time work requirement outside the 5-day-8-hour normal working hours, not to speak of the possible obscurity and irregularity in calculation of subsidies. Most of the workers in service industries have long working hours. Food and beverage, and related delivery services often require 12-hour standby. Customer flow varies at different time of the day, peak hours could be very busy while service may not be needed during other time of the day, but workers cannot take rest as they are on stand-by. Even though working hour is usually limited to 8 hours a day for the environmental hygiene workers in Shenzhen and Guangzhou, there is no rest day throughout the year, which is particularly hard for this group of workers as their average age is high. Due to the nature of food and beverage, and hotel business, weekends and public holidays are usually operations peaks, employees cannot take rest on these days while calculation of over-time pay are also contested.

3. Workers have to bear occupational risks on their own and internalize management control The major difference between workers in service industries and manufacturing industries is that workers of service industries provide services, and they have to face service users or customers instead of responding to demand of production or orders in the factories. They do not only have to face the control of the management in their workplace, but also to receive the service users and customers directly. In other words, people who are not involved in the production process in fact have great impact on their work performance and evaluation, which put the workers from service industries under both external and internal pressure, and they have to bear most of the risks on their own. For example, if the food deliverer and courier cannot attain 95% punctuality in delivery, they will be fined even many uncontrollable factors might affect their punctuality; frontline employees of hotel industries have to handle incidents of fire or personal threats in a low profile for the reputation or image of the hotels, and they cannot call 4 〈行業工資水準及差距〉,劉學民(編),《中國薪酬發展報告 2015》,中國勞動保障出版社,2015, Pages 77 – 85.


the police on their own or defend themselves; workers in food and beverage industry often face complaints from customers or become target of emotions, some employers might have a contingency plan but more often, employees have to respond to such incidents on their own. Moreover, many workers reported that their work is not appreciated or respected by the customers or the public while their work is being evaluated by the customers directly, and they have to accept both positive and negative emotions. They may face complaints and insults (in the food and beverage, delivery and courier industries) or being beaten up in the street (as environmental hygiene workers), which bring a lot of psychological pressure. The employer usually put customer feelings and company reputation before rights and interests of workers, and not concerned with more balanced relation between customers and employees. Workers can only bear with these situations quietly, or even internalize the grievances and insults and accept the accusation that their performances were not up to standards, making it difficult for them to challenge the unjustifiable and unreasonable requirements in the future.

4. Disperse workplaces post challenges to collection actions and organization Working places of the workers in service industries covered by the researches are mostly dispersed, except for the warehouse workers. Some employers employ a small number of workers (such as restaurants), and some businesses require workers to be placed in disperse areas and move within specific areas to complete their assignments. Examples include take-away deliverers and workers of environmental hygiene who have to take care of assigned areas, room service and front desk workers who work at different floors of a hotel. There are few chances to meet co-workers face to face, to learn and compare working conditions and put forth collective demands, even the physical distance between them may not be far. Workers who are aware of unions are mostly working in food and beverage, and environmental hygiene. Other workers have little knowledge about roles of trade unions or industry unions, and some even do not know if there is a union. We learned from the workers that their discontent with their working conditions and employment terms may not be less compared to that of workers in manufacturing industries. Only a few of them would file complaint with the employer, except for workers in environmental hygiene. Most of them are reluctant to demand their superiors for improvement of terms and conditions. As positions in service industries do not have high technical requirements, workers could be easily replaced. Even if the spend physical energy and time, they do not see the future of career development. Workers are not motivated to fight against existing difficult situations, as they consider the hardships of current jobs are only transitional which will no longer bother them only if they are able to find other jobs with prospects or start their own businesses.

Conclusion The reversion of development trend of second and third industries has attracted more and more workers towards the new service industries. This posts challenges to unions in many highly industrialized countries, and the so-called “share economy� in recent years has further casualized the employment relation in service industries. Fortunately, civil power is starting to blossom in China. The effect of collective contract on salary of food and beverage industry, which may be difficult to cover smaller companies, is yet to be observed. Meanwhile, the collective labour actions of workers in environmental hygiene in 2012 and the country-wide Walmart workers’ actions have shown that it is possible for workers in service industries to breakthrough boundaries of working places and get organized


for collective actions. The cross-country collaboration between Amazon warehouse workers also proved the importance to exchange information on conditions of exploitation on workers and their resistance amid trans-national capital flow. The economic and social systems in China are undergoing rapid changes. It is important for labour rights groups to understand the development trends of these industries and explore ways to unite workers. More and more workers will choose to resist through collective power and protect their own rights when they are fully aware of their status.


An Exploratory Research of the Working Conditions in Shenzhen’s Hotel Industry Worker Empowerment & Zheng Ziyan Introduction Shenzhen, the Chinese city where labour-intensive industry used to be one of its major economic drivers, has accelerated the transformation and upgrading of industries in recent years. The city government proposed several policies in its document - “Guiding Opinions of the Acceleration of Industrial Transformation and Upgrading by the People’s Government of Shenzhen” in 2011, such as elimination of low-end industries, improvement of industrial structure, urban redevelopment and technical innovation. These changes have already been noticed during our observation in industrial zones. Tertiary and secondary industries have switched their places in the city’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) during the past decade. Industrial zones that used to be full of factories are now gradually replaced by financial services office buildings and residential projects, upgrading into high-end and knowledge-based industries. At the same time, low-end, more polluting and labour-intensive industries are relocating to other cities or shutting down. Among different service industries, hotel industry is one of the few that still maintains a relatively large number of staff. There are many hotel chains in Shenzhen besides five-star hotels. For instance, budget hotel brands like 7 Days Inn and Hanting Hotel have grown into


Contribution of Secondary and Tertiary Industries in Gross Domestic Product (GDP)

(Unit:%) Secondary Industry Tertiary Industry 2009





















Source: Shenzhen Statistical Yearbook 2016


a certain scale. Yet, this may not be shown in official figures. According to Shenzhen Statistical Yearbook from 2011 to 2015, the total number of star rated hotels has decreased (the total number has dropped from 153 in 2010 to 134 in 2014). However, the number of room and bed in four-star and five-star hotels has increased by one fourth, while the same figures in two-star and three-star hotels have decreased by nearly a half. Since some large scale budget hotel chains like Vienna Hotel and 7 Days Inn are not star rated, their expansion is not included in official figures. On the other hand, staff number in guesthouses and hotels has constantly decreased from 2010 to 2014, i.e. from 56,272 in 2010 to 47,406 in 2014. This number is only about regular workers, therefore outsourced workers, dispatched workers and interns are not included. This phenomenon makes us wonder why the number of labour is declining when the expansion of the industry is still going on? How does it affect the forms of employment and working conditions? We had encountered with a few service industries workers before, realized violations of the Labour Contract Law is common in the industries. In Summer 2016, with the assistance of several university student volunteers, we conducted an exploratory research on the working conditions and worker composition in the hotel industry in Longgang District, Shenzhen.

Research Methodology Data collection of the research is mainly through questionnaire interviews covering topics of interviewees’ basic personal background, employment processes, basic information on hotels, labour contract, working conditions and working hours, wages and overtime payment, social insurance and benefits, workplaces’ rules and regulations, personal feelings and daily life etc. Before we started the interviews, we also conducted a preliminary survey through collecting information from recruitment websites and phone calls, visiting nearby hotels and talking to workers who have joined hotel industry. Due to some reality constraints, most of the workers were not able to finish the whole questionnaire. At the same time, interviewers also hoped to discover other aspects of the industry beyond the questionnaires, therefore the interviews were conducted in a semi-structured manner. Again, given the said constraints, careful sampling was impossible during our research. However, the research outcome is still inspirational and important for us to study the existing issues in the hotel industry. During the preliminary survey, we visited a few local guesthouses and found that it is rather hard to conduct research there, because most of them are family-run businesses and the number of staff is small. Staff members are usually relatives of the owner and living in the guesthouses which makes it difficult for us to have in-depth conversations with them. There are numerous guesthouses with different backgrounds in the region. In this case, we would need a huge sampling size in order to increase the representation of the research, yet it is impossible given the limited resources and time we had. Therefore, we chose local express business hotel chains and five-star hotels as our samples, because they have both gained higher market share and employ more staff. The issues we discovered in them would somehow show a general picture of the hotel industry in China.

Research Findings a. Basic Background We collected 58 questionnaires in total. 36 of them were completed by workers from two fivestar hotels - One was invested and managed by a state-owned enterprise and the other was belonged to an international hotel group; seven of them were completed by workers from several


nationwide chain hotels, in which two hotels were regular chain. Another 15 questionnaires were completed by workers from three locally-owned business hotels. The scale of express, business hotels vary from 80 to over 100 rooms; and the number of staff is between 10 to 30, usually in front desk service and housekeeping, and the rest of them in maintenance, account and finance, security and cleaning. Some hotels also run other amenities like restaurants and karaoke boxes while some rent out the amenity facilities to other service providers to run. On the other hand, five-star hotels have 300 to 400 rooms, with the staff number around 300 to 400. Most of them work in food and beverage and entertainment services. These hotels often provide Chinese and Western catering services, banquets and bars. Inside the food and beverage department, there are several divisions like waiter service, kitchen and catering support. Besides, there are other positions like laundry attendants, lifeguards and gardeners. Regarding the age distribution, workers are generally younger in front desk service since they give the first impression of the hotels to their guests. Security department also prefers young and strong workers, while housekeepers are usually relatively older. In terms of gender, there are both male and female workers in front desk and catering services while female makes up the majority. Cleaning positions, especially housekeepers, are taken by female workers when positions of maintenance, gardening, cook, porters are generally taken by male workers.Most of the interviewees joined their companies after 2012.

b. Labour Contract According to the research, less than 60 per cent (55.6%) of workers sign labour contract with their hotels, while nearly 40 per cent (36.1%) of workers, who are student interns, sign tripartite agreement with their schools and hotels, yet the work compensation is basically decided by their schools and hotels. There are some outsourced and dispatched workers (8.3%) that do not sign labour contracts with the hotels. Student interns mainly work in the departments of food and beverage, concierge and switchboard operation, which require less experience or skills, but in need of young workers who are good at communication. Outsourced workers are mainly responsible for unskilled jobs like lobby and outdoor cleaning and catering support. Labour contracts signed between five-star hotels and younger workers are usually threeyear contracts while the labour contracts for older workers vary at different positions. For positions like housekeeping that require more skills, the hotels may sign a three-year contract with the workers; for positions in laundry and gardening, the labour contract duration varies from one to two years. Older workers tend to return home for retirement and student interns prefers to stay in the hotel after internship ends. During our observation, only one five-star hotel signed open-term labour contract with eligible workers, while the other five-star hotel does not, since it was established less than six years ago. Some chained express hotels are escaping the liability to sign open-term labour contract with their staff, for example by frequently changing store manager or asking the store manager to sign new labour contract instead of renewing the current one. Such practice is even more common in locally-owned business hotels. Workers from two hotels told us it is a common practice to sign labour contract once a year with their employers while a smaller proportion of them do not sign labour contracts or possess a copy themselves. Workers generally are not familiar with their labour contract details.

c. Wages and social insurance status Generally speaking, the linkage between the hotel ratings and the wages level of workers is not always clear, depending on job positions. The basic salary of regular workers is the minimum


wage of the city or slightly higher than that. Workers rely highly on overtime payment, commission or bonuses to add up their wages. Wages of formal workers and supervisors is about 3,000 yuans in five-star hotels and the basic salary of student interns, who take up the largest proportion of the workforce, is only about 1,000 yuans. Wages of front desk and cleaning staff is about 2,000 to 3,000 yuans, a small proportion of them can get monthly wages over 4,000 yuans through commission. Positions like housekeeping supervisor do not have any extra income but they can have at least 3,000 yuans monthly due to their high position rank. Five-star hotels have higher hygiene standard on guest room thus housekeepers work harder, which means the excessive room-cleaning quota pay and wages are higher, in a range of 3,000 to 4,000 yuans. Some of them can even get monthly wages of 5,000 yuans. In other positions, the number of waiters has taken up a certain proportion of the total staff number. The wages are consisted of basic salary and overtime payment. In one of the hotels’ western restaurant, there were a total of 20 staff - three head waiters, three supervisors and the rest are student interns. Wages of student interns do not exceed 2,000 yuans while head waiter only has around 3,000 yuans. The higher the position, the more wages a worker can get. However, workers claimed that competition for the supervisor position is keen. The basic salary for physical labour positions like catering support and laundry attendants is only 2,030 yuans, if adding up overtime payment a worker can get over 3,000 yuans a month. Gardening and lobby cleaning also require the same level of physical labour but the wages for these positions are less than 2,500 yuans. Security, account and finance, engineering do not have commission. The wages for security staff are around 2,500 yuans and some of the workers can get wages over 3,000 yuans; while the wages for account and finance and engineering are only around 3,000 yuans. We interviewed a store manager in a chained hotel. He is a native of Shenzhen below 30 years old. He spends over 5,000 yuans each month and lives from pay cheque to pay cheque. Therefore, we estimate his monthly salary is 5,000 yuans approximately. He told us he and many of his peers got promotion to store manager because they met the boom in the hotel industry. There is less promotion to store manager afterwards. The same was mentioned by staff in a five-star hotel too. Promotion was easier during the early development of hotel but now even the vacancy of supervisor is rare.

The composition of wages, besides basic salary, may includes the following: • achievement rewards – pay when the hotel occupancy rate achieved to a certain percentage; the amount varies from tens of yuans to thousands of yuans and from different stores to different ranks of staff • Attendance bonus, night shift and high temperature allowance • Some irregular income, for example retails sales bonuses • Commissions.

The wages of housekeepers do not increase according to their age or experience. Housekeepers in one of the business hotels are female workers in their 50s who is difficult to find jobs. These female workers are skilled and they used to get 2,600 or 2,800 yuans of wages with basic salary and excessive room-cleaning quota pay. But when they reach their 50s, they can only get 2,200 yuans with excessive room-cleaning quota pay after switching to this hotel. Also, they only have four rest days in a month which means they are paid less than the minimum wage requirement.

The workers in this business hotel only have wages around 2,000 yuans but male work-


ers working in the karaoke box run by the hotel can get wages from 5,000 to 6,000 yuans (we did not meet any female workers during the interview). This karaoke box is a luxurious one, staff got tips by guests. A staff can get at least 100 yuans a night for serving a room, so the monthly wages can reach to 5,000 to 6,000 yuans, but their basic salary was only 600 yuans. This kind of karaoke box run by the hotel might have more labour law violations or even unlawful operations. Most of the hotels offer meals and accommodation to workers. If the hotel did not have meal for workers, they will provide meal allowance. However, since hotels do not encourage workers to live out, accommodation allowance is rare. Workers have to pay for their own water and power bills in the hotel dormitory, or they have to pay when the usage exceeds a certain level. Five-star hotels have shuttle bus service for their workers. Although shuttle bus drivers are not hotel employees but they are good resources to help us understand the hotel situations. Different hotels have different social insurance arrangement. Five-star hotels and some of the regular hotels buy full set of social insurance but some chained hotels divided workers in different classes to purchase social insurance. Some workers of chained hotels told us they do not need to by social insurance because they have already purchased the New Rural Social Pension Programme. Five-star hotels save the cost of social insurances by hiring student interns and dispatched workers who do not enjoy social insurances. Some workers claim they refuse to purchase the insurance. However, it is compulsory to buy social insurance according to the Law.It is the hotels’ intention to not tell such information to the workers. Many workers do not understand their social insurance status and some workers refuse to buy social insurance because they only plan to work temporarily in the city. In some cases, however, workers are older than the age limit to purchase social insurance and are worried about their retirement.

d. Working hour and overtime work Front desk work usually adopts two working hour systems – the Three-shift System, each shift is eight hours; and the “Two-days-on, Two-days-off”, each shift is 12 hours. And for catering support and waiters, some works eight hours per shift and some works split shift - working 10.5 hours per day, with a three-hour break in between. Since comprehensive working hour system is applied on these posts, working on weekends does not count as overtime. Housekeepers work for three shifts and have night shift allowance. The working hour of store manager, account and finance is more stable. Five-star hotels have at least seven different shift and rotation systems in different positions – morning shift, night shift, split shift etc. Most of the hotels follow labour law requirement and offer paid sick leave. Front desk workers in some hotels work “Two-days-on, Two-days-off” and working on weekends is not counted as overtime work. It could be the result of comprehensive working hour system or only because the employers are not following the Labour Law. Many workers told us they do not have overtime pay for weekend work but will have compensation leave as remuneration. In five-star hotels, overtime pay for weekdays and weekends is only applicable for some staff but every worker has it for overtime work on statutory holidays. In case of overtime work for unfinished tasks, an intern from a five-star hotel told us he usually works two hours extra and does not have overtime pay. A regular work in the dishwashing department also told us he gets compensation leave instead of overtime pay for unfinished task. The employer will only make a cash payment to eliminate accumulated compensation leave balance when a worker resigns. In some chained hotels, workers are not paid for overtime pay, instead employers listed meal allowance as overtime pay on their payslips. And in the said business hotel with karaoke box, some workers’ weekend overtime pay is calculated based on the city’s minimum wage instead of their basic salary.


e. Student interns and dispatched workers The biggest characteristic of five-star hotels is student interns form the majority of the workforce. The students work for six months to one year. Every year, the human resources department hires student interns from schools. If student interns are willing to stay and have good performance, it is possible to get promoted to rank 5 in a few years. However, we are told that the promotion competition is fierce. Many students leave after the internship ends. This practice is similar to that of Foxconn, by using student interns as cheap workforce to cut labour cost. Another way adopted by five-star hotels to cut cost is using dispatched or outsourced workers. This usually occurs in unskilled positions like dishwashing and lobby cleaning which are highly replaceable and student interns refuse to do. Poorly-educated and older workers take up these positions. These dispatched or outsourced workers usually do not obtain any labour contract and have only 2,200 yuans to 2,500 yuans a month without social insurance. Some of them only has four rest days off in a month which means their basic salary is less than the minimum wage requirement. Wage arrears happen sometimes.

f. Work safety and management system Workers of front desk, security and room service is at risk of workplace hazards when some chained hotels tend to cover accidents and hazards to protect its reputation. For instance, when a fire breaks out in a hotel, workers are not authorized to report the hazard. Instead, they are only allowed to report the case to their supervisors and let them decide to report. Also, when staff is attacked by drunken guests or thugs, they are not allowed to defend themselves. This may result in physical injuries of the workers. Female front desk workers are under higher risk of physical attack and sexual harassment. In terms of work injury, workers from five-star hotels and some of the chained hotels told us their employers has a certain procedure for it; when workers from other hotels have no ideas how work injury would be handled as they have no experience in it. For management system, most staff of five-star hotels and chained hotel are familiar with the rewards and penalties system in their hotels. If they caused any damage on hotel property or made wrong meal order, they have to pay the original price or pay penalties after exceeding a certain quota. Employees would be fined for excessive unqualified performance, such as substandard cleaning and being complained by guests. For late to work, some hotels deduct workers’ break time as penalty, i.e. if worker was late for one minute, three minutes will be deducted from his break time; and some hotels will deduct worker’s attendance bonus. Hotels usually do not ask new employees for deposit, but we found that some business hotels that are suspected to unlawful operation ask new front desk staff for 500 yuans as deposit. Most workers can enjoy paid annual leave while some workers only have unpaid leave. Workers usually pay around 100 yuans for uniforms deposit. It will be deducted if they damaged the uniforms. Workers in most of the positions do not get wage deduction for sick leaves, but for positions like catering support, security, cleaner and managers, their wages will be deducted for that. Staff number in some chained hotels is large and employers tend to segregate them. Hotel management launched different WeChat and QQ chat groups according to workers’ positions, for example manager group, supervisor group and regular worker group and have subgroups of different stores and departments. Although there are also larger chat groups for specific departments and stores, an employee might be kicked out of those groups when considered to be “provoking” and too vocal with their grievances. It prevents workers to build their own chat groups and hinder their information exchange, making it hard for workers to organize and fight for their rights.


g. Workers’ daily life Older workers generally save more and spend less than younger workers while younger workers’ consumption practices vary among themselves. Given the same salary, some of them live from pay cheque to pay cheque while some can save up to 1,000 to 2,000 yuans per month. Many younger workers are breadwinners of their families and have to send 1,000 to 2,000 yuans back home every month. Some workers told us they spend all their wages on online shopping. Some younger workers purchase high-end products like iPhone, although their wages are only around 3,000 yuans. A large proportion of interviewed workers do not have high expectation on promotion and wage increase and the rest of them are more inclined to a positive future. Nearly half of the interviewees chose “pleasant” to describe their workplace atmosphere. Two third of the workers have shifted their working industries. Most of them were former factory workers, some of them were construction workers, self-employed, clerks and workers in other service industries. When they compare hotel industry and the industry they worked in, most of them think it is similar or inappropriate to compare and some workers think the working conditions is slightly better. Some workers think that although the wages are lower than their previous job, the work intensity is lower as well. Most of the interviewees have not decided their retirement location, especially the younger workers; while most of the workers who have replied this question plan to retire in their hometown in rural villages. Since mid-aged and older workers often have not purchased social insurance up to the designated duration, the pension they can get is insufficient to support their retirement life in the city; and to many younger workers, the amount of pension will be meagre for living even if they insist to pay for all their working years. It is still common that workers refuse to buy social insurance.

Overall observation a. Floating salary, miscalculation of overtime work pay, low participation rate in social insurance We can tell from the questionnaire findings that no matter five-star hotels or chained business hotels, workers get more than 2,000 yuans for basic salary, a little higher than the official minimum wages in Shenzhen. The rating of hotels has no impact on workers’ basic salary. This is close to the hotel industry wages guideline announced by the Shenzhen Municipal Human Resources and Social Security Bureau which says the wages of front desk and housekeepers should be slightly higher than 3,000 yuans. Indeed, many interviewees receive more wages, between 3,000 to 4,000 yuans or above but they work more than five days a week, eight hours per day. It is all contributed by floating wages like overtime work and commission. Workers may earn this floating wages by their ability or luck. From workers’ participation of social insurance, we also notice that many hotels set up their own “participation threshold” or manipulating workers’ limited knowledge on social insurance to skip the cost. The calculation of overtime pay is unclear. Hotel workers usually work eight hours per shift, unlike their counterparts in production industry that have stable overtime work. Overtime on weekdays is usually due to unfinished tasks. However, it is very common for hotel workers to work six days a week when working on weekends is not counted as working overtime. Some workers mentioned the rotation system of “Two-days-on, Two-days-off” but it can be a result of comprehensive working hour system. Hotel industry is one of the industries that comprehensive working hour system can apply. Other industries are geological and resource exploration, con-


struction, salt refining, sugar refining and tourism which is restricted by season or nature and only applicable to some of their workers. We see two questions here – 1. Have these hotels seek approval from the Labour Bureau before they adopt comprehensive working hour system and have they inform their employees? 2. This system has a restriction on the total number of working hours, i.e. 40 hours per week. However, we observe the current situation that workers have to work six days a week, eight hours per day, exceeding the said time limit. Therefore, we can tell some employers are stealing overtime pay from workers no matter they are officially applying comprehensive working hour system or not.

b. Student interns widely used in several positions while educational purpose in doubt Student interns form a major workforce in some positions in five-star hotels, for instance they form over half of the workforce in catering service and concierge. The figure can sometimes up to 80 per cent. However, we found that the proportion of student interns working in housekeeping and kitchen cleaning is less, only taking up 10 per cent of the workforce. It is probably because of the high physical labour required. These positions are usually done by older female workers. Although students work full time in the hotels, but the internship allowance for them is lower than local minimum salary. According to Article 40 of the the Higher Education Internship Regulation of Guangdong Province, employers must provide interns a living allowance no lower than 80 per cent of the local minimum salary. Due to the less hours in overtime work, student interns can only get around 1,000 yuans per month and since employers are not required to buy social insurance for students, the labour cost is further reduced. According to Article 23 of the Higher Education Internship Regulation of Guangdong Province, student interns should not exceed 30 per cent of the total workforce in the firm. Therefore, we suspect the high proportion of student interns in hotels has violated the regulation, but since we do not have full details of the student interns proportion in the workplace, it is hard to confirm.

c. High turnover rate leads to lower motivation to handle dispute Through our interaction with hotel workers, we get a picture that they lack commitment to work long-term in the industry. Many younger workers do not want to stay in the workplace or they just see the job as a temporary transition in their career. Even though they are unpleasant with their current situation, they are easy to leave their job, thus are disengaged with labour processes and collective actions to fight for improvement. We interviewed a mid-aged worker who reflected the issue of low wages to her employer. She and her colleagues have just been informed about wages increase recently, but their case is rare in the industry. According to the workers’ description on their jobs, we see a great potential to lead to a labour struggle, for example the overtime pay miscavlculation mentioned above, work safety and other workplace hazards. However, there is more to be studied about – whether workers will choose to resign when they face these issues or other actions by them to strive for improvement.


Research on the Labor Protection of Sanitation Workers in Guangzhou China Labor Research Team

Introduction After more than a decade of marketization, the number of sanitation workers in Guangzhou’s environmental sanitation industry has continued growing at a steady rate. However, despite this increase, worker’s living conditions are still quite harsh. In order to develop a better understanding of the labor treatment and security of these sanitation workers, the research team decided to conduct analysis in late 2014. The results of the study reveal that the labor rights and interests of sanitation workers are severely exploited. One of the main forms of exploitation concerns salaries that are far below the statutory standards. Although certain measures have been put in place by the People’s Government of Guangzhou Municipality, mainly welfare policies and safety measures, they still fail to benefit workers due to inadequate implementation. Workers had been under unsafe working environments. The awareness and measures taken by employers show that they were indifferent. The level of occupational safety and health protection were also relatively weak. In order to improve the living conditions of sanitation workers, the government must scrutinize and review the impact of the marketization of the sanitation industry on sanitation workers. This may even mean reconsidering or completely getting rid of the market-oriented operation of the industry. At the same time, it should promote the democratic supervision and participation of citizens and sanitation workers organizations, and provide more support to sanitation workers, including raising awareness of labor rights and related knowledge, promoting their understanding of their own situation and seeking reasonable labor treatment.

Background With the continuous development of Guangzhou and the increased road area, the city has increased its investments in sanitation work. In 2004, the size of the area that the Guangzhou government had to clean reached 48.6 million square meters. In 2013, it rose to 114.27 million square meters, which is an increase of 135%; the amount of domestic garbage disposal also increased significantly. In order to ensure that the city remains clean, the labor force needed to continue to grow. The number of sanitation workers in the city was 10,740 in 1988, 25,000 in 2008, and 45,000 in 20151. 1 池朝兴,“以创建全国文明城市 建设首善之区为动力 在“四个坚持”中努力打造大环卫”,环卫科技网, 2008 年 9 月 19 日,;“ 广 州 成 立 环 卫 行 业 工 会 联 合 会 改善行业劳资关系”,新華社,2010 年 7 月 7 日, htm;“ 市 领 导 接 见 环 卫 工 人 代 表 ”, 广 州 日 报,2013 年 10 月 26 日;“ 市 政 府 领 导 新 闻 发 布 会 2015


The Marketization of the Sanitation Industry In September 2005, the reform and marketization of sanitation work in Guangzhou City was first completed in Haizhu District. The sanitation districts originally under state supervision were all contracted to private companies. By 2009, Guangzhou City had also Reassigned the environmental sanitation duties from the bureau of sanitation to the newly formed Commission of Urban Management. In 2010, there were more than 500 sanitation units engaged in contracting cleaning tasks in Guangzhou, and more than 30,000 sanitation workers. By 2013, 65% of the city’s cleaning area was handled by companies in the cleaning and service industry.

Industry Policy • Opinions on Regulating the Employment of Sanitation Workers (aka Employment Opinions, 《关于 规范 广州市环卫行业 用工的意见(穗 府办〔2013〕20 号) 》 ), implemented on 1 May 2013, regulated the working conditions related to sanitation works, including wage levels, post allowance, high temperature etc. • Opinions of Further Improving Conditions of Sanitation Workers (aka Condition Opinions, 《关于进一步改善环卫工待遇的意见 》), announced in July 2014, firmly required the improvement on occupational disease preventions as well as equipment upgrades.

Research Introduction In late 2014, this research group started two investigations based on the collective actions of many sanitation workers in Guangzhou since 2012. The following is a brief description explaining the contents of these two surveys. • Interview Survey of Sanitation Workers (August 2014) : Out of the 23 workers who were interviewed, 61% identified as female and 39% identified as male. The respondents were all outdoor cleaners in charge of street cleaning in Guangzhou and Foshan. The average working age was 6.6 years; 17% worked more than 48 hours per week; 35% were outsourcing companies. •

Safety of Environmental Protection Survey (October 2014): In total, 68 valid questionnaires were collected. The respondents were environmental sanitation workers in Guangzhou university campuses, and 93% of them were front-line cleaners.

This report mainly analyzes the data obtained from the latter investigations, including the labor status of the sanitation workers, wage and welfare protection, occupational safety and health, social status and support, rights protection and appeal channels, and trade union support.

Research Results 1. Working Conditions 1.1 Employment Relationship Guangzhou began its controversial market-oriented operation in 2005. By 2013, 65% of the city’s cleaning area was under the responsibility of such cleaning and service companies and the 年 5 月 起 广 州 环 卫 工 人 工 资 将 涨 至 3216 元 ”, 腾 讯,2015 年 5 月 20 日, life/2015429/186482.shtml。


total number of sanitation workers was more than 40,000. Under the market-oriented development, the workers responsible for street environmental sanitation work are no longer employed by the subdistrict office, the government sanitation department, but are directly employed by the cleaning company. The sanitation work of the university campus is handled by the property management company. Although the campus is the work place of the sanitation workers, they are employed by the property management company instead of the university. In the questionnaire and interviews, it was discovered that 65% of the university campus sanitation workers were employed by outsourcing companies. Questionnaire Interview % of Workers In- 64.7% (44 people) - Employed by Uni- 34.7% (8 people) - Employed by Outdirectly Employed versity owned companies sourcing Companies % of Directly Em- 14.7% (10 people) - Established a la- 43.5% (10 people) - Established laployed Workers bour relationship with the school bour relationships with the street sanitation department % Others 4.4% (3 people) 0% % Non-response

16.2% (11 people)

21.7% (5 people)

1.2 Working Days and Hours In the questionnaire survey, 65% (44 people) reported that they worked 8 hours a day, 6% (4 people) needed to work more than 8 hours a day; 41% (28 people) needed to work 7 days a week, 47% (32 people) had to work 6-6.5 days per week. In the interview survey, 74% (17 people) worked six days a week; 83% (19 people) worked 48 hours or less per week. This is essentially 8 hours a day, 6 days a week. Those who worked 56-58 hours a week made up 17% (4 people) in the group. Sanitation workers in colleges and universities also experienced more violations of overtime work regulations. Various sources report that the sanitation workers said that because of their workload, they had to reduce the time for drinking, dining and rest. Some even had to ask their family to help them to complete their work targets. This makes it obvious that many sanitation workers are suffering from the pressure of excessive workloads. 1.3 Salary and Welfare According to Opinions on Regulating the Employment of Sanitation Workers, with the exclusion of overtime work, the wages of sanitation workers should be at least 2,193 Yuan per month. If the worker has all five social types of insurance, meaning that 283.13 yuan will be deducted per month in contributions, then their monthly wages will be at least 1,909.87 yuan per month. In the questionnaire survey, the average monthly salary of the respondents was 1,576 yuan. From the analysis of the individual status of the respondents, at least 70.6% (48) of the respondents did not get paid the wages that were up to the “Working Opinions� standard. Actual Monthly Salary 1,909.87 Yuan per month or above Less than 1,909.87 yuan Answer does not fit options No Answer

Number of Respondants 7.4% 70.6% 2.9% 19.1%

Of all the respondents, 79.4% (54) of the respondents had a base salary lower than the expected


1,705 yuan. Of these respondents, 32.4% (22) had a base salary even lower than the minimum wage of 1,550 yuan for Guangzhou employees. Only 13% (9 people) enjoyed the base salary as stipulated in the Employment Opinion. For the respondents that worked overtime, 38% (26 people) clearly indicated that they did not have overtime pay. Of this group, 92% (24 people) had to work overtime 6-7 days a week unpaid. Of all the respondents, 35% (24 people) did not answer whether they had overtime pay. 41% (28 people) of the respondents had to work 7 days a week, and 64% (18 people) of those who had to work 7 days per week received monthly wages that were lower than the 1,909.87-yuan level stated above. 1.4 Social Insurance Provisions for improving the treatment of sanitation workers can be seen in the above-mentioned various regulations on the implementation of social insurance rights. The employer is required to apply for five types of statutory social insurance, including the Basic Retirement Insurance, Basic Medical Insurance, Employment Injury Insurance, Maternity Insurance and Unemployment Insurance for the sanitation workers, and to “pay social security fees in full and on time”. In the questionnaire survey, 57.4% (39 people) had Social Insurance and 23.5% (16 people) did not have Social Insurance. Percentage of all re- Monthly Payments of Monthly Payments of I n s u r e d b u t h ave spondents 280 Yuan or more 280 Yuan or less failed to classify Participate in 57.4% (39 people) 17.9% (7 people) 74.4% (29 people) 7.7% (3 people) Social Security Do not Partic- 23.5% (16 people) ipate in Social Security No answer 19.1% (13 people)












In the interview survey, 82.6% (19 people) had social security and 13% (3 people) did not have social security.

Had all 5 types of social security Had some of the social securities

Had Social Se- Did not have So- Unclear curity cial Security 65% (15 people) 13% (3 people) -

Had some of the social securites, but 4.3% (1 people) not sure which one Total 82.6% (19 people) 13% (3 people)

Total -

4.3% (1 people)


1.5 Non-response rate Throughout the obtained statistics, each questionnaire question had a certain number of non-responses. This is suspected to be related to workers’ familiarity with those aspects.


Number 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

Type of Compensation Monetary Contributions Consolation Money Post allowance Overtime Pay High Temperature Subsidies Social Insurance Actual Salary Base Salary

Non-response rate 66.2% (45 peple) 47% (32 people) 38.2% (26 people) 35.3% (24 people) 26.5% (18 people) 19.1% (13 people) 19.1% (13 people) 7.4% (5 people)

The above table shows that questions relating to “consolation money” received the highest number of non-responses. Over the years, the Guangzhou government claims it has issue 200 yuan twice a year for condolences to each sanitation worker. However, the non-response rate for consolation money is even higher than 66%, only one person mentioned the Spring Festival condolences. It is estimated that workers do not understand the condolences and have not even enjoyed this benefit. “Post allowance” (ranked second) and “overtime pay” (ranked fourth) are part of the monthly wages of the sanitation workers. The criteria and calculation formulas of these two items are more complicated, and the interviewed workers may not have answered due to their lack of understanding. The “Housing Provident Fund” (ranked third) and “Social Insurance” (ranked sixth) are clearly defined in government documents. As a low number of sanitation workers enjoy the Housing Provident Fund, it is estimated that workers are relatively unfamiliar with it. Therefore, the non-response rate is twice as high as that of social security.

2. Occupational Safety 2.1 Precautions According to Article 54 of the Labour Law, the employer must provide the necessary labour protection articles for the workers and carry out regular health checks for labourers engaged in work with occupational hazards. • Health Checks: Only 27% (18) of the workers had received their annual health check-ups. Even more concerning, a total of 37% (25 people) had never undergone a health check-up. • Usage of protective equipment: The distribution ratio for all items was less than 50%. There was a serious lack of personal protective equipment for sanitation workers. Gloves had the highest distribution rate but still only 46% (31 people) had been provided with them.Sanitation workers are often exposed to occupational hazards such as dust, toxic and harmful gases, and unpleasant odours at work, but the actual use of protective masks is only 44% (30 people). Since only 37% (25 people) employers provided the masks it is safe to assume that a small proportion of workers were bringing their own masks to work. Type of Equipment Protective Masks Gloves Protective Clothing Towel Soap/ Disinfectant


% of Respondents Distribut- % of Respondents who Used ed with Equipment the Equipment during Actual Work 36.8% (25 people) 44.1% (30 people) 45.6% (31 people) 66.2% (45 people) 22% (15 people) 20.6% (14 people) 29.4% (20 people) 38.2% (26 people) 30.9% (21 people) 33.8% (23 people)

Wide Brimmed Hats Hand Cream Rain Boots Others

11.8% (8 people) 2.9% (2 people) 22% (15 people) 5.9% (4 people)

16.2% (11 people) 7.4% (5 people) 20.6% (14 people) 4.4% (3 people)

2.2 Work Related Injuries and Diseases • Heat Stroke While at Work: Since the sanitation workers spend a large amount of time in hot weather cleaning the outdoors, symptoms of heat stroke may occur. In the questionnaire survey, 28% (19) of the respondents had a heatstroke during their work, and 71% (48) did not. Most of the respondents were weak in their understanding of occupational diseases due to heat stroke. 21% (14 people) thought that “it is useless even though heatstroke is classified as an occupational disease, the unit does not bear the relevant medical expenses”, they do not understand the occupational disease rights. • Occupational Injuries: • When occupational injuries such as scratches and traffic accidents occur, 41% or 28 people chose to solve the problem on their own without notifying their employer. Only 10% have reported their work-related injuries in accordance with the law. Most of the respondents have a weak knowledge of their legal rights as victims of occupational injuries and do not understand all the possible methods to treat their occupational injuries. • 72% or 49 respondents have had scratches or sprains as a result of their work. Among them, 27% or 13 people went to the hospital for treatment. 57% or 28 people did not go to the hospital for treatment, and 12% or 6 people did not answer. Frequency of Scratches or Percentage of Respondents Sprains while Working Occurs Frequently 13.1% (9 people) Occasionally 39.7% (27 people) Rarely 19.1% (13 people) Never 25% (17 people) No Response 2.9% (2 people) Total Number of people who 72.1% (49 people) had Scratches or Sprains while Working

3. Union The Guangzhou Environmental Sanitation Industry Federation of Trade Unions, a subsidiary of the government-led All China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU), was established in July 2010. However, 74% (50 people) of the respondents made it clear that they did not join the union. In fact, only 10% (7 people) joined the union. Moreover, 46% (31 people) said that they have not heard of it, while 32% (22 people) had heard of the union, but did not know much. As to whether or not the workers believed that the trade union could actually solve their problems, 43% (29 people) thought that the trade union had no practical use. Tellingly, only 3% (2 people) thought that it could solve problems effectively. Attitudes towards the Union Has no practical use Usefulness depends on the situation Can effectively solve problems

Percentage 42.6% (29 people) 13.2% (9 people) 2.9% (2 people)


No response Total

41.1% (28 people) 68

In the interview survey, 52% (12 people) did not join the union, 39% (9) joined the union, and 9% (2) did not answer.

2.4 Help from Government Authorities Among the respondents, 15% (10 people) had labor disputes (such as work injury treatment), 70% (7 people) of them did not look for help from the government, and 30% (3 people) found the government department but could not solve the issue. The attitude of the department staff was negative. In case of labor disputes in the future, 46% (31 people) said that it is “useless to seek help” from the government department and that the department was just “for show”. Response Has no practical use Usefulness Depends on specific situation No response Total

Percentage 45.6% (31 people) 26.5% (18 people) 27.9% (19 people) 68

Conclusion Sanitation workers, who are generally middle-aged and often toil without being acknowledged, clean every corner of the street roads every day. They should be a rather visible population of workers, but instead are treated with disregard as though they are a filthy and ugly side of the city. How can we better understand their situation? The research team hoped to find answers through questionnaires and interviews to understand the rights and interests of sanitation workers from the perspectives of labor rights, remuneration, occupational health and grievance negotiations. This comprehensive analysis showed that the rights and interests of sanitation workers are severely exploited. Implementation of the various safeguards and welfare policies targeting sanitation workers and promoted by the government is seriously lacking. Labor remuneration and protection of workers has not improved and occupational health is not guaranteed for them either. They are still struggling while living on the edge of society. The Opinions on Regulating the Employment of Sanitation Workers issued by the Guangzhou government and the Opinions of Further Improving Conditions of Sanitation Workers issued by the Guangdong Provincial Government seek to standardize the employment situation of sanitation workers. The salary and welfare programs of the sanitation workers mentioned in the “Employment Opinions” include basic wages, sanitation post allowances, high temperature allowances, overtime or extended working hours, Sanitation Workers’ Day and Chinese New Year’s condolences, social insurance contributions and the housing provident fund. However, the workers either had limited or no knowledge of the above, nor had they benefited from the above standardized remunerations. Most of the workers were forced to work overtime for a longer period of time. Although the workers have always suffered from occupational hazards at work, there is no effective mechanism to supervise and encourage employers to implement practical measures that resist harmful factors and prevent occupational injuries. Even the distribution of personal protective equipment is seriously inadequate, and workers are constantly getting sick. These complaints were also ignored.


In the final analysis, the situation faced by sanitation workers is deeply rooted in the

“reform” of the sanitation industry, which began in various regions in 2005, and is related to the promotion of market-oriented development. Environmental sanitation work that was originally the responsibility of government departments was outsourced and subcontracted to private companies and along with it the jobs of frontline sanitation workers were also outsourced. . With the development and expansion of this industry, the government and enterprises have worked together to reduce the cost of sanitation labor and have therefore reduced the protection and treatment of workers’ rights and interests. In order to improve the situation of sanitation workers, the following recommendations should be followed: • The government needs to strengthen supervision and provide a detailed review of the impact of the marketization of the sanitation industry on sanitation workers and finally cease the market-oriented operation of the industry. • Promote the democratic supervision and participation of citizens and environmental protection organizations. Prohibit illegal employment by outsourcing enterprises. • Provide more support to sanitation workers by promoting sanitation worker’s understanding of their situation, seeking reasonable labor treatment, and raising awareness of labor rights and related knowledge. • Strengthen the transfer of knowledge about occupational health and safety and raise awareness of workplace hazards prevention. The government must strengthen supervision of employers so that they fulfill their responsibilities and reduce the occupational hazards of sanitation workers, including by providing pre-employment and on-the-job training. This way workers can learn how to prevent work-related injuries and learn about work-related injuries; implement yearly health checkups and monitor workers’ physical conditions. • Concerning mechanization reform of the sanitation industry, the opinions of frontline workers should be taken with high regard in order to achieve reforms that are more realistic. • Actively promote the free participation and organization of sanitation workers’ trade unions. Strengthen the links between workers and trade unions. Allow workers to receive timely support from trade unions in the face of exploitation by their employers. • A comprehensive analysis of the questionnaire survey and interview survey found that from a small amount of data, there is still an observable difference between the sanitation workers employed by the Guangzhou University Campus Property Management Company and the sanitation workers directly employed by the Street Office. The former face worse labor treatment. It is advisable to carry out follow up research and discussion in the future. • Guangzhou’s waste sorting policy, which is related to the daily work of sanitation workers, has been promoted for a long time. However, this study has focused less on this aspect and it is advisable to follow up with research and discussion in the future. • Sanitation workers have a low social status and are enduringly subject to different levels of discrimination and possible interference in their work. It is thereby advisable to carry out follow up research and discussion about their views of their work and living conditions in the future.


About Worker Empowerment: Worker Empowerment (WE) is a Hong Kong-based labour organization which concerns labour rights in China. The mission of WE is to strengthen workers, particularly migrant workers, to reclaim labour rights and decent jobs. Adopting a community approach, WE supports workers through actions including workers outreach and providing legal advice. This is achieved by developing long-term supportive partnership with local community-based worker centers in the Pearl River Delta Region. WE also emphasizes the importance of research and policy advocacy. Having published research reports on employment difficulties, minimum wage and the Labour Contract Law, WE sustains the role as an monitor and advocate in Chinese labour policies. For inquiry please contact us through email:

Cover Picture: “Roadside cleaner on bike, Wangfujing Street, Beijing� by Victor Wong, licenced under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0