An introduction to China Labour Bulletin's Workers’ Calls-for-Help Map

10 January 2024

Violations of labour rights are endemic in China. In response, some workers organize collective actions, some seek legal redress, while many others use China’s social media platforms to post online appeals for assistance.

These appeals are often lost in the mass of social media traffic in China. In order to counter this, China Labour Bulletin has, since September 2020, collected notable calls for help from workers and added them to a new database that follows on from CLB’s two other dual-language interactive maps, the Strike Map, set up in 2011; and the Work Accident Map, launched in 2014. 

Unlike CLB’s earlier maps, which primarily record collective incidents, the new Workers’ Calls-for-Help Map focuses on individual cases. However, it is not designed to record every single worker appeal, but rather to gather detailed information on cases that could and should benefit from government, trade union and media intervention. 

CLB’s primary role is to collect information and disseminate it to agencies that can provide the necessary help. However, we can on occasion provide legal advice and assistance directly. 

Basic information harvested from social media posts - such as the date, location, industrial sector and the name of the company involved - are logged in each case. The original social media links, and - if applicable - personal contact information, will be included so that trade union officials, lawyers, journalists and other interested parties using the map can directly reach out to the workers concerned.

Another important source of information is the public message boards hosted by The People’s Daily. These local “leadership message boards” are a place for citizens to interact with government officials on a range of issues. Workers may use the platform to directly seek assistance from relevant local government departments, and requests related to workers’ rights - such as wage arrears, unpaid social insurance, and work-related injuries - are numerous on this platform. After workers submit their requests for help on the platform, local government officials have the opportunity to respond and directly contact the workers. CLB documents these exchanges in our map. 

The map includes an “Incident Alert” feature that allows users to bring to CLB’s attention important cases of wage arrears, layoffs, employment discrimination, as well as work accidents that might not have been posted or were subsequently deleted on China’s heavily censored domestic social media platforms.

After clicking on the “Incident Alert” in the map header, users will be prompted to enter their case and contact details. A confirmation email will be sent afterwards, and CLB will attempt to verify the information and use our discretion in posting these incidents to the public map. Please note: The information provided will not be used for any commercial or profit-making purposes. All personal contact details will also be kept confidential, unless we receive approval to make them public.

By default, the map will display data from the previous six months. However the time period can be adjusted according to the user’s preferences. Likewise, users can select specific regions or industries of interest. The classification of industries for the Workers’ Calls-for-Help differs slightly from our other maps in that it only includes the industries where worker grievances are most commonplace. 

For more options and parameters, please click on the "Advanced Search" button in the upper left corner. You can also export data as a .xls file by clicking on the “Export” button directly below "Advanced Search."

As with the Strike Map and Work Accident Map, the Workers’ Calls-for-Help Map supports graphic data visualization. By clicking on “Graphs” in the lower left corner, users can view monthly statistics on the number of incidents recorded, composition of industries, and type of actions. 

It is important to note that because the map prioritizes important cases in which detailed information is available, the number of incidents, proportion of industries, and other data will be somewhat selective and may not reflect overall social and economic trends in China.

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