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Chinese People Debate Draft of Labor Contract Law
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China's top legislature, the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC), has received more than 190,000 suggestions since it released the draft of the labor contract law to the public on March 21.

The suggestions focus on the widely-existing problems of the current labor contract system, such as the short validity term of the labor contract, unequal pay for equal work and employers' reluctance to buy social insurance for employees.

Laborers submitted their problems to the legislature, hoping that their views could be fully considered in the legislation process of the labor contract law.

Li Yuan, Director of the Administrative Law Department under the Legislative Affairs Committee of the NPC Standing Committee, said since China's labor supply exceeded demand, employers, without worries about inadequate laborers, often sign short-term contracts, which were always a few months long, with employees, so that some employees, afraid of unemployment, dare not ask for reasonable salaries and social insurance.

Therefore, some laborers suggested that the contract should be valid for at least one year or two years to better protect laborers' interests. Some suggested an increase in cost for employers to sack employees in a bid to avoid unfair dismissal.

To put a provision of "equal pay for equal work" in the labor contract law was also frequently mentioned.

Some wrote letters to the legislature, saying that many migrant workers worked twice as long as urban workers, but earned one fifth to one third amount of the salaries of the urban workers and did not enjoy any social welfare.

Currently in China, a large number of employers shirk the responsibilities of buying pension, medical and unemployment insurance for employees. Some laborers suggested the setting up of supervisory government organizations.

China initiated the labor contract system in the early 1990's with the promulgation of the Labor Law. Previously, most Chinese workers enjoyed the "cradle to grave" welfare system. But over the past dozen years, an increasing number of workers ensured their salaries and welfare through signing labor contracts, with China's transfer to a market economy.

(Xinhua News Agency April 23, 2006)

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