IV. Protection of Workers' Rights

China attaches great importance to protection of workers' rights. In the past year the government has made new efforts to safeguard the rights stipulated by China's Labor Law, such as equal access for employment, salary, rest and vacations, work safety and health protection, job training, social security and welfare.

China now has 31,000 employment agencies, 2,716 job service centers, and more than 2,000 unemployment insurance bodies. And more than 200,000 labor service enterprises have been established throughout the country, employing more than nine million people. In 1996, about ten million people found jobs with the help of employment agencies, and the unemployment rate in cities and towns was around three percent.

To ensure the minimum wage standard for workers, the government has in recent years issued the Regulations on Minimum Wages for Enterprises, and a notice on implementing the system to ensure minimum wages, which clearly stipulate the fixing and adjusting of the minimum standards of wages, the payment of the wages, and the legal liabilities for those who violate the regulations. To date, all the provinces, autonomous regions, and municipalities except Tibet have issued and implemented the lowest standards for wages in their own areas, thus establishing, by and large, a minimum-wage guarantee system that complies with China's actual conditions. Moreover, the government has also promulgated the Provisional Regulations on Wage Payment and a set of additional regulations to ensure the workers to get their legitimate payment on time and in full.

To protect workers' safety and health, China has issued the Regulations Regarding the Implementation of the Mine Safety Law, and the Regulations Regarding Management of Hidden Causes for Accidents, and increased funding in the improvement of working conditions. More than 20 million yuan has been invested each year in upgrading enterprise labor protection techniques, and in researching and developing new labor protection products. In the meantime, the government has increased supervision and management of labor safety by urging enterprises to continuously improve work conditions to create a safe and hygienic work environment for laborers. In recent years, the incidence of fatal accidents, especially major and extraordinarily big accidents, has declined.

The Chinese government puts much emphasis on the development of workers' job skills and on job training, and vigorously promoted the development of senior secondary technical training schools. At present, there are 4,467 secondary technical training schools across the country, which admit more than 700,000 students each year. Meanwhile, social sectors have been fully mobilized to help train personnel in various fields. In 1996, more than 1.1 million people received training, including 18,000 ex-servicemen who were trained for civil jobs, 169,000 pre-employment trainees, and 45,000 township enterprises employees.

The social security work is making constant progress. More than 87.5 million workers and 22.5 million retirees have participated in pension insurance mutual assistance programs. Meanwhile, a mechanism for regular adjustment of basic pensions has been established nationwide, which has enabled the basic pension of enterprise retirees to grow for two consecutive years by 40 to 60 percent of the rate of the salary increase of local enterprise employees in the previous year, thus helping ensure the basic livelihood of enterprise retirees. The government has also promulgated the Provisional Measures on Insurance for Enterprise Employees Suffering from Industrial Injuries to ensure that workers get due compensation if hurt in the course of industrial production.

To guarantee the implementation of various laws and regulations that protect the legal rights and interests of workers, the government has increased supervision over enforcement of labor laws and regulations of work units by carrying out various forms of supervisory activities. According to statistics, labor administration departments at all levels reviewed 178,000 work units in the first half of 1996, and dealt with 76,834 cases involving the violation of labor laws and regulations. They also investigated and determined the legal liabilities of the violators, thereby protecting the legal rights and interests of the workers.

Attaching great importance to the protection of the legal rights and interests of the elderly, China passed the Law on Protection of the Rights and Interests of the Elderly in August 1996, which sets clear stipulations for family support and social security for the elderly, their participation in social development, and the legal liabilities of activities that infringe upon their legal rights and interests, standardizing and legalizing the state protection of this special social group. According to the law, the state has established a pension insurance system to ensure the basic livelihood of the elderly, and their pension and other treatment are protected by laws. The government increases the pension in line with economic development, improvement in people's living standards, and rise in workers' salaries; in rural areas, local economic organizations should provide adequate food and clothing, housing and medical service, and proper funeral arrangements for the elderly people who are unable to work, who have neither sources of income nor family support, or whose family supporters do not have the ability to support them. In urban areas, local governments should provide relief for elderly people who are unable to work, have neither sources of income nor family supporters, or whose family supporters are unable to support them.