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Breathing Life into Labor Law 10 Years On

Monday marked the 10th anniversary of the passage of the nation's Labor Law.

It has definitely played a significant role in protecting laborers' rights and interests over the past decade. Yet, a more arduous task is still ahead.

Employment has a vital bearing on people's livelihoods, especially in a country with a population of nearly 1.3 billion.

Upholding equal employment, the law has fought against all sorts of discrimination in the labor market against ethnic identity, race, sex and religious beliefs to promote employment.

Increasing job opportunities is a key approach to translating the country's economic growth into swelling pay packets and higher living standards.

The country's total employment has increased from 670 million to 740 million in the past 10 years. By the end of 2003, the registered unemployment rate in the urban areas was 4.3 percent, and the number of registered jobless urbanites was 8 million.

However, as the country strides forward to build an overall well-off society, domestic employment pressure keeps rising.

In the coming 20 years, China's population above the age of 16 will grow by 5.5 million annually on average. By 2020, the working age population is expected to be 940 million.

In addition, drastic economic restructuring and accelerated population migration from rural to urban areas will also add to the difficulties of creating ample job opportunities.

The 10-year-old law has provided a crucial legal base for the legislation of a number of employment-related laws and regulations to address the many problems the severe employment situation has brought about.

But the implementation of the Labor Law remains a great cause for concern. One problem is that many employers delay payment to their workers, most of whom are struggling farmers-turned laborers.

Finding jobs in locations other than their places of birth has become a major channel for the transfer of the rural workforce.

Last year, more than 98 million rural laborers took up jobs outside their townships, over six times the figure of 15 million in 1990.

Payment defaults were prevalent until earlier this year, when Premier Wen Jiabao emphasized this problem and urged an immediate halt of the misconduct.

The feelings aroused by the unprecedented nationwide debate about the recovery of migrant workers' wages are mixed.

On the one hand, the incident helped solve a problem that had beleaguered hundreds of thousands of migrant workers for years.

On the other, it highlighted the pressing need to strengthen law enforcement and legal aid to safeguard the fundamental interests of laborers.

(China Daily July 6, 2004)

Protecting Workers Through Legislation (Part 1)
Number of Laid-off SOE Workers Falls
Unions Call for Rule to Help Workers
New Jobs to Outnumber Those Slashed
Jobless Rate Rises to 4.2%
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