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People's Daily Online>>China Society

Workers caught in construction contracting web

By Chen Xin (China Daily)

10:18, January 18, 2012

BEIJING - To avoid delays in the distribution of wages to construction workers, labor experts are calling for improved employee relations and clarity in complex contracting mechanisms.

Feng Tongqing, a labor professor at the China Institute of Industrial Relations, said migrant workers in the construction industry form the group most vulnerable to wage delays.

Feng said that the problem is structural. In the industry, investors authorize a contractor to construct a building, and the contractor usually parcels out the work to sub-contractors, who also have any number of sub-contractors beneath them, Feng said.

When they do not receive pay on time, workers always turn to the sub-contractor directly above them.

However, because investors do not pay until a project is finished, contractors and sub-contractors must dip into their own pockets to buy construction materials, leaving them no money to pay their workers, said Feng.

Zhao Wei, deputy director of Beijing Normal University's China Labor Studies Center, said although such a mechanism generates high productivity by pushing contractors to finish jobs quickly, it is so complicated that workers sometimes do not know who really owes them, and contractors also complain about delinquent investors.

A recent survey conducted by Peking University showed that among 166 construction workers polled in Shenzhen, an economic hub in South China's Guangdong province, 44 percent said their wages had been delayed at least once.

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