Description: In 2008, the Chinese government passed three ambitious labor laws to improve working conditions at Chinese companies and the employment security of Chinese workers. Employers criticized these laws as a return to the age of the “iron rice bowl” under socialism, which guaranteed lifetime employment and extensive welfare benefits for all urban workers. Labor activists hoped that the new laws would help close the gap between the high standards of Chinese “law-on-the-books” with its implementation and enforcement in reality. These protective measures coincided with the onset of the global financial crisis and a rapid decline in China’s export markets. The combination of more protective laws and greater economic volatility led to a rapid and unprecedented increase in labor conflict, including legal filings and large-scale strikes and demonstrations. In the wake of China’s recovery from the crisis, this conflict has continued. Workers are more aware of their new rights; trade unions have been encouraged by the government to do more to protect workers; and a labor shortage in manufacturing has emboldened workers to press for higher wages and better conditions. This event was co-sponsored by the Center for Chinese Studies.
Sponsor: Berkeley Center for Law, Business and the Economy