V. Guarantee of the Right to Work

A citizen's right to work is the essential condition for his right to subsistence. Without the right to work, there will be no guarantee for the right to subsistence. The Constitution and the law provide that citizens have the right to work, rest, receive vocational training and be paid for their labor and that they have the right to labor protection and social security.

Having a job is the direct embodiment of the right to work. In China, with its large population and weak economy, employment is an outstanding social issue. In old China, corruption on the part of the Kuomintang government and the civil war it unleashed led the national economy to overall collapse and the bankruptcy of large numbers of industrial and commercial enterprises. By the beginning of 1948, 70-80 percent of the factories in Tianjin had shut down; in Guangdong, the number of factories shrank from more than 400 to less than 100; and in Shanghai, numerous factories were closed down and the 3,000-odd factories that survived had to run at 20 percent of their normal capacity. Numerous workers lost their jobs as a result of the massive number of industrial and commercial closedowns. By 1949, the year the nation was liberated, 4,742,000 workers, or 60 percent of the nation's total, were jobless. Such was the heavy social burden New China inherited from the old society.

After the founding of New China, the people's government attached great importance to this problem and took various practical measures to ensure employment. In less than four years, virtually all the unemployed left over from old China started work again. Since then, with the annual population growth of 14 million, employment has always been a cardinal issue in China's economic life. For a considerably long period of time, job-waiting people in urban areas basically counted on the government for job placements and most of them were employed in public works. Since the policy of reform and opening to the outside world was adopted in 1979, China has instituted a multi-ownership economic system with public ownership of the means of production taking the dominant position. The employment system whereby the state assigns virtually all the jobs has been revamped and the principle has been carried out to open up all avenues for job opportunities by combining the efforts in three fields--job placements by labor departments, employment in enterprises organized by those who need jobs, and self-employment. Labor companies have been established in the service of job-seekers, and vocational training has been expanded to improve the laborer's qualities and provide them with as many job opportunities as possible. To solve the problem of employment of the rural surplus labor force resulting from the development of production and the improvement of productivity, the government has devoted major efforts to setting up rural enterprises and encouraged farmers to develop industrial and sideline occupations along specialized lines and on a household basis. Thus those farmers who have quit farming can have work to do without leaving their villages. Meanwhile, plans have been made for some of the surplus laborers to work in cities. In the economic rectification designed to raise the economic efficiency of enterprises and deepen their reform, a number of enterprises have been closed down, suspended, merged or switched to other lines of production in the last couple of years. The government, attaching great importance to the resettlement of the workers in these enterprises, has provided short- or medium-term training so that they can adapt to their new jobs quickly. In 1990, the number of workers in urban and rural areas reached 567 million, about 3.1 times what it was in 1949; the number of employees in cities and towns topped 147.3 million, 9.6 times that in 1949; and the urban and rural unemployment rate stood at only 2.5 percent.

In old China, women, who accounted for half of the nation's total population, not only suffered class oppression, but also had no right in the family, because of failure to gain economic independence. Those who were able to find jobs in society were subjected to every kind of discrimination. In New China, women enjoy the same right to work as men. The government devotes major efforts to developing social welfare, including nurseries and kindergartens, and encourages women to take up jobs, enabling them to acquire economic as well as political independence. The state law and policies provide special protection for women's employment. The Constitution provides the principle of equal pay for equal work to men and women alike. The government labor department intervenes and ensures that the mistake is corrected promptly whenever women are found to be discriminated against in their work units, and it stipulates that women get their normal pay during maternity leave. As a result, the number of employed women has been increased steadily, and their field of employment constantly expanding. Nowadays, women's employment rate has exceeded 96 percent in town and the countryside, trailing behind that of men's by less than two percentage points.

College graduates' employment is fully guaranteed in China. The situation is a far cry from old China, when graduation was synonymous to unemployment for college students. Since the founding of New China, the government has followed the policy of unified job assignment for all college graduates and thus ensured that every one of them has the opportunity to work. In the past 10 years, the government has reformed the job assignment system by combining the students' own choices with the state's guarantee of jobs. The state sees to it that, in light of the needs of various areas in economic development, every college graduate is provided with a suitable job on a voluntary basis. This is why unemployment is out of the question for college graduates in China.

In socialist China, the government guarantees the basic necessities of every worker and his family and sees to it that their life gradually improves with economic growth. Although Chinese workers have relatively low monetary wages, they enjoy a large amount of subsidies, including financial subsidies for housing, children's attendance at nursery and school and staple and non-staple foods, as well as social insurance such as medical treatment, industrial injury and retirement pension and many other welfare items, which are not counted in the wages. Statistics indicate that urban residents in China pay only 3-5 percent of their living expenses for housing, communication and medical treatment. Since China carried out reforms in 1979, past payment measures have been modified. On the basis of economic growth and labor-productivity increase, workers' wage levels have been raised proportionally. Therefore, the wage levels of workers have increased rapidly, and there has been an obvious improvement in the consumption level of all Chinese residents. Statistics in 1990 showed that the average consumption level per capita of urban residents had increased from 149 yuan in 1952 to 1,442 yuan, an inflation-adjusted increase of 3.8 times.

China pays close attention to labor protection and has issued 1,682 laws, rules and regulations in 29 categories in this regard, while 28 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the central government have their own local laws and regulations for labor protection. In addition, 452 articles of state technical standards regarding occupational safety and hygiene have been enacted throughout the country. China has established a state supervision system insuring labor safety, hygiene, protection for female workers and a work-hour and vacation schedule. So far more than 2,700 labor supervision institutions have been set up throughout China with some 30,000 supervisory personnel. The duty of the supervision institutions is to monitor the work of enterprises and their management with regard to labor safety and hygiene so as to stimulate the enterprises to improve working conditions constantly.

China adopts the policy of "safety first and prevention first" in labor protection, and combines state inspection with enterprise management and worker supervision. The government requires that 10 to 20 percent of the enterprise's annual renovation fund be used for labor safety and hygiene. Labor protection is regarded by the state as an important factor in appraising the management skill of an enterprise. In cases of casualties, an investigation will be conducted to look into the responsibility of the leaders and personnel concerned.

China provides free medical service in the urban state institutions and undertakings and co-operative medical service in most rural areas. Thus both urban and rural workers are assured of medical care. Those wounded or disabled on the job are provided living expenses from the state or the collective. In order to raise the level of labor protection, China has set up many testing centers for occupational safety and hygiene and labor-safety education offices. Dozens of universities have established safety-engineering departments. Labor and industry departments have set up scores of scientific research institutes which attempt to strengthen labor safety and improve working conditions for workers through scientific research, designing, production, usage and management. Compared with the Sixth Five-Year Plan period (1981-85), these efforts resulted in a 9.53 percent decrease in on-duty deaths and a 37.95 percent decrease in serious injury in state-owned and large collective enterprises during the Seventh Five-Year Plan period (1986-90).

The Chinese government pays special attention to the protection of female workers. In July 1988, the State Council promulgated Regulations on Labor Protection of Female Workers, laying down specific guidelines. For example, it is forbidden to make female workers engage in particularly strenuous work or work harmful to their physiological well-being. Also stipulated are concrete protections for female workers during the menstrual period, and also during pregnancy, maternity leave and breast-feeding, at which periods, their basic wages must remain the same and their work-contracts cannot be terminated. In recent years, a special fund has been established in many places to offer living subsidies to women during breast-feeding and leave.

Chinese workers are the masters of their enterprises. Workers' interests are closely connected with the enterprises' prosperity, and there is no conflict of fundamental interests between the managers and the workers. This reality determines that China's system of protecting workers' rights is different from that under the wage-labor system. According to China's Law Concerning the Industrial Enterprises Owned by the Whole People, workers can directly participate in the formulation and supervision of regulations concerning the enterprise's operation, management, labor, personnel, wage, welfare, social security, collective welfare, etc. through the workers congress. China's trade unions play a particularly important role in the protection of workers' right to work. Since China adopted the policy of reform and opening to the outside world in 1979, trade unions have accomplished the following five tasks: They have, first, actively practiced and improved the system of workers' congresses; second, set up various workers' schools to perfect the education system; third, organized labor emulation drives and mobilized workers and staff to overfulfill state plans; fourth, protected workers' material and spiritual interests and guaranteed their welfare; and fifth, set up committees to deal with labor disputes.

In July 1987, the State Council issued the Interim Rules on Labor Disputes in State-Owned Enterprises. Aimed at readjusting labor relations in state-owned enterprises, this administrative law deals with disputes arising from the implementation of labor contracts and the dismissal of workers who violate discipline. Institutions specialized in handling these disputes include the enterprise labor dispute mediation committee, local labor dispute arbitration committee and the people's court. Most disputes are resolved through mediation by the committees. Only a minority of cases are settled through arbitration or by the people's court. Incomplete statistics show that in 1990 enterprise labor dispute mediation committees and local labor dispute arbitration committees throughout China handled 18,573 labor dispute cases and settled 16,813, of which 15,881 were settled through mediation with a success rate as high as 94 percent. Only 932 cases were settled through arbitration, about 6 percent of the total decided cases. There were only 218 cases settled through court suit after arbitration failed, accounting for about 1.2 percent of the total number of completed cases.

The Chinese government attaches great importance to labor legislation. In accordance with the Constitution, the State Council and state labor administration departments have promulgated laws and regulations regarding wages, welfare, worker safety and health, as well as vocational training and grading, working and resting hours, trade unions and democratic management of enterprises. At present, the drafting of a labor law is under way.