What you need to know about workers in China

In this section, we answer some of the most frequently asked questions about workers in China and provide the detailed background and statistical information readers from outside China need to better understand the key issues of labour relations, work safety, employment and wages, social security, employment discrimination, and migrant workers and their children. Each section is updated regularly to take into account new data and government policies.

Workers’ rights and labour relations in China

What rights do workers have under the law? How is the law enforced? And what is the role of the trade union etc? CLB provides succinct answers to these frequently asked questions about labour relations in China.

Platform economy

In China, the scale of the platform economy, the conditions giving rise to the development of the sector, and the special regulatory environment all have unique features that affect workers and their rights. This explainer examines these angles primarily through the lens of two platform industries: the food delivery industry and the ride-hailing industry.

Employment and wages

Job creation and higher living standards have long been key objectives for the Chinese government. However, millions of workers in traditional industries are being laid off and many of the new jobs being created are insecure and poorly paid. The legal framework established ten years ago to protect workers has largely failed to do so, to the extent that millions of workers cannot even be sure they will get paid on time.

Workplace discrimination

Discrimination in the workplace on the basis of gender, age, social origin, health, ethnicity etc. is endemic and still widely tolerated in in China. Over the last decade, the Chinese government has sought to provide employees with greater legal protection against discrimination but these laws remain deficient in administration, effectiveness, and coverage.

China’s social security system

Every employee in China is supposed to have a pension, medical and unemployment insurance, and a range of other welfare benefits. In reality, the system has largely failed to provide workers, rural migrant workers in particular, with the social security they need and are legally entitled to.

Migrant workers and their children

The 2022 official estimate of the population of rural migrant workers in China is 296 million, comprising more than one-third of the entire working population. Migrant workers have been the engine of China’s spectacular economic growth over the last three decades, but they remain marginalized and subject to institutionalized discrimination. Their children have limited access to education and healthcare and can be separated from their parents for years on end.

Work safety

China is undeniably a safer place to work than it was a decade ago. However, accident rates, death tolls and the incidence of occupational disease are all still comparatively high. New work hazards have emerged as the economy develops, and many employers continue to prioritise productivity and profit well above work safety.


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