26 years after they were laid off, more than a thousand women workers from the Chongqing Mining Bureau are still demanding payment of their rightful benefits. In a letter to the Tianwang Human Rights Centre in the provincial capital Chengdu, the elderly workers explained that a total of 3,880 workers were laid off from the mining bureau in 1981, and that they have never received their full pension and redundancy payments.
Many workers have died in poverty, and many of the 1,100 survivors fear they will suffer a similar fate. Ming Jinxiu, a 68 year old worker who has been living off her husband's meager pension since she was laid off, told the Tianwang Centre the couple's income of less than 900 yuan a month was barely enough to buy daily necessities, and she worried that after her husband dies, she will have nothing at all to live on.
Workers' representative, Luo Zhaoxian, said the women had sought redress for their problems at numerous different government offices but all to no avail. "We have signed many petitions and have even traveled to Beijing twice. In Beijing, we were told that our problems should be handled locally. Nobody cares about us. Every time we seek justice, we are either beaten-up, cheated or pushed around," she said.
In 2005, the Chongqing Municipal government issued a circular stating that even retired workers at collective enterprises who are not entitled to old-age pensions should be provided with basic living expenses. The women workers applied for the scheme in 2005, but were only registered in June 2007, and have heard nothing since.
China initiated wide-ranging social security reforms in 1993. And since then, many enterprises have hired temporary workers on limited contracts in a bid to avoid payment of the welfare and pension contributions long-term employees would be entitled to. China's pension system has experienced such severe shortfalls that in 2001 the central government had to transfer 98.2 billion yuan to make up the deficit. And according to the 2000 Census, only 56.2 percent of urban retirees receive a pension.