IV. The Right to Work of Citizens and
the Rights and Interests of Workers

China has always attached importance to the protection of the right of citizens to work and the rights and interests of workers, regarding this as an important aspect of its efforts to safeguard human rights. The Labor Law of the People's Republic of China, adopted in July 1994 by the Standing Committee of the Eighth National People's Congress, fully and concretely states the basic rights of laborers granted by the Constitution. According to law, workers enjoy equal rights to employment, selection of profession, remuneration, rest and vacation, labor security and health protection, professional skill training, social insurance and welfare as well as other rights prescribed by law. The Labor Law stipulates that the state implement a minimum wage guarantee system and a paid annual vacation system, in addition to standards for work hours, labor security and health, with special protection for women workers, and standards for professional training.

When the Labor Law was promulgated, it stipulated that work hours not exceed eight hours a day or 44 hours a week on the average. In March 1995 the State Council issued a circular adopting the five-day work week nationwide, thus shortening the working hours of workers and staff to 40 hours a week. This is an amazing step taken by a developing country like China in protecting the rights and interests of laborers.

In order to implement the Labor Law, a labor contract system, a minimum-wage system and a labor supervision system have basically been established in the whole country. By August 1995 28 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the central government had officially adopted minimum-wage standards for their respective localities. Governments at all levels have strengthened supervision of labor security and health protection during work, attached great importance to the supervision and examination of implementation of the law in private enterprises and enterprises with foreign investment, and conducted timely investigation and dealt with enterprises and individuals who have violated the stipulations of the Labor Law and encroached upon the legal rights and interests of workers.

Employment is the direct embodiment of the citizens' right to work. With the support of people from all walks of life, remarkable results have been achieved in employment in the whole country over the past few years. From 1991 to 1994 arrangements were made for more than 29.21 million people to find jobs in China's cities and towns. The number of urban and rural employees in 1994 showed an increase of 47.3 million over the 1991 figure, with the unemployment rate in cities and towns remaining below 2.8 percent. This is no easy task for China, a country with a population of 1.2 billion and a still very low level of economic development.

Because of China's big population base, the contradiction of the supply of labor force exceeding the demand will exist for a very long time to come. By the end of 1994 China had 4.8 million unemployed in cities and towns. To solve this problem, the government has proposed and carried out the "reemployment project," with the emphasis on helping those who have been unemployed for more than six months to find jobs as soon as possible. At present, this project has been promoted throughout the country, and remarkable results have been achieved in Shanghai, Shenyang and other cities.

By the end of 1994 China had 25,000 employment agencies, which successfully dealt with 13.29 million person-times in helping people find employment or re-employment in 1994 alone. Professional skill training has developed, with 4,433 schools for training technicians and 2,600 employment training centers set up. China has already established an employment service system, with employment agencies, employment training, labor service, and enterprises based on the principle of save-oneself-by-production as its mainstay.

China's social insurance has also achieved outstanding results since 1991. In March 1995 the State Council issued the Circular Concerning the Deepening of Reform of the Endowment Insurance System for Workers and Staff of Enterprises. A basic form of endowment insurance that combines social overall planning with personal accounts has been established, thus further expanding the scale of endowment insurance. At the same time a mechanism has been adopted to adjust the basic pension regularly, so as to guarantee the basic livelihood of retirees from enterprises. In recent years the State Council has issued several documents to raise the retirement pay of retirees. By the end of 1994 China had altogether 29.29 million retirees, whose retirement pay and retirement allowances averaged 82 percent of the average wage of workers and staff on the job. With regard to the unemployment insurance system, the State Council promulgated in 1993 the Insurance Regulations for Workers and Staff of State-Owned Enterprises Waiting for Employment. In China today 26 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the central government have extended the coverage of the unemployment insurance program. By the end of 1994, the total number of workers and staff participating in the unemployment insurance program had reached 95 million throughout the country. Based on the principle of ensuring basic medical care for all laborers in cities and towns on the one hand, and economizing on medical expenses and lightening the burden of enterprises on the other, reform has been carried out in the medical insurance system. Reform measures have also been enacted in the system of insurance against injury at work and birth insurance system so as to better protect the rights and interests of the workers.

With the continuous growth of the national economy and the special attention of the government to protecting the rights and interests of workers, the average annual wage of workers and staff has increased year after year, from the average yearly wage of 2,140 yuan in 1990 to 4,538 yuan in 1994, an average annual increase of 6.4 percent in real wage after deducting price-rise factors.

Since 1991 the Chinese government has further consolidated the social guarantee for the rights and interests of the elderly. Today the governments of 28 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the central government have enacted local regulations to safeguard the legal rights and interests of the aged. At the end of 1994 ten departments, including the State Planning Commission, the Ministry of Civil Affairs and the China National Committee on Aging, Jointly issued the Seven-Year Development Program for China's Old-Age Work, which comprehensively prescribes detailed stipulations for protecting the rights and interests of the elderly.

It has been a tradition for several thousand years in China's rural areas to "raise children to provide for old age." After New China was founded, a five-guarantee system was adopted for childless and helpless old folks, according to which they are provided with food, clothing, medical care, housing and burial expenses. In addition, many places have set up "houses of respect for the aged." Since 1991 the Ministry of Civil Affairs has been carrying out the work of rural endowment insurance on an experimental basis. Today, 1,500 counties (cities) have implemented old-age insurance in the rural areas and nearly 50 million people in the countryside have joined the endowment insurance program. In future the life of old people in China's rural areas will be triple-guaranteed by the support of their children, social insurance and the five-guarantee program.

The Regulations for Rural Five-Guarantee Work, adopted by the State Council in 1994, enables the five-guarantee program to become a system. China is now in the process of establishing a five-guarantee system by combining collective support, state relief and the construction of homes of respect for the aged. Presently, 33,584 townships and towns in China have made overall plans for the five-guarantee work, accounting for 69 percent of China's total townships and towns. The number of old people on the five-guarantee programs supported by collectives has reached 2.73 million, accounting for 76.68 percent of the total number actually provided for. China's rural areas have about 40,000 homes of respect for the aged, housing altogether 560,000 old people.