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Working Overtime Prevails in China

In wake of China's celebration of the May 1 "International Labor Day", 2,000 "model worker" title winners have been offered a seashore vacation to get recuperation from their heavy work loads.
"It is working people's eligible rights to get convalescent treatment for the sake of health," said an official with All China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU) on condition of anonymity.
His remarks point to a prevailing phenomenon shared by many Chinese people: working overtime shared.
The rapid adoption of mobile communications, wireless access and Internet has overcome the limitations of time and space, making working at home possible but at the same time squeezing people's resting hours.
A survey made in mid April by China's Social Survey Center showed that among 1,218 samples in different social strata of Beijing, 65.6 percent worked more than eight hours daily and 20 percent of respondents worked more than 10 hours a day.
"According to the Labor Law, companies that need overtime work should negotiate with trade unions for approval, in real practice, however, hardly no one follows the regulations," said Zhang Haitao,an official with the provincial trade union in east China's Jiangsu Province.
On the other hand, though many people acknowledge that overworking compromises one's health and life, they voluntarily act like workaholics.
Zhou Tao, 26, an IT engineer at a Taiwan company in east China's Jiangsu Province, said his company gives each employee a laptop so they can take work back home.
"It becomes a routine for us to work extra hours, but whenever it happens, I tell myself that the overtime pay helps lay another brick for my future apartment," said Zhou.
Li Guiming, who is now working for a Beijing-based newspaper and whose daily work time also exceeds ten hours, said "if my wage were lower than my wife's, I would feel ashamed. Moreover, I have to save money for my child's education and for my life in old age."
"Workaholics are usually respected and supported by society," said Du Wendong, a psychology professor in prestigious Nanjing University in Jiangsu Province, "A busy schedule suggests a key position in one's company and a good salary."
But, he said, "In fact, this is mistaken."
Recently, many Chinese celebrities have died from overwork, sounding alarms for ordinary Chinese.
Chen Yifei, 59, an eminent Chinese artist, died of gastrorrhagia on April 10, when he was directing the movie "The Barber" in Shanghai.
Wang Junyao, chairman of the Shanghai-based Junyao Group, who ran China's first private charter airline and built a business empire valued at 300 million US dollars, died of intestinal cancer at the age of 38 on Nov. 7, 2004.
"The eight working hours system is a social and scientific achievement in the industrial era, and people must consciously prevent it from fading out of daily work," Du said.
According to the ACFTU, it has decided to spend two million yuan (US$242,000) annually as the model workers' recuperate subsidies, and the practice will be gradually expanded to local trade unions too.

(Xinhua News Agency May 16, 2005)

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