For well over a decade, the southern economic powerhouse of Guangdong has been the province with the highest number of strikes and worker protests in China. Over the last five years however the proportion of worker protests in Guangdong has steadily fallen while worker activism in other provinces has increased.
In the first two months of this year, the province with the highest number of worker protests recorded on CLB’s Strike Map was Henan with 34 incidents, followed by the neighbouring provinces of Jiangsu (31) and Anhui (26). At the same time, there were 23 incidents in Guangdong, level with Hunan and Sichuan.
The higher concentration of incidents in inland areas is partly explained by the annual increase in construction worker protests over wage arrears prior to the Lunar New Year holiday but it is also indicative of a longer trend that has seen low-end manufacturing facilities in Guangdong close down and move to inland provinces, combined with the growth of low-paid service industry jobs across much of the country. For the time being, Guangdong will continue to be an important centre of worker activism in China but certainly not the only one.
The following are two typical examples of recent protests in Henan and Anhui.