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Labour rules give workers more security
By Fu Jing (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-12-01 08:01

New regulations are expected to protect workers, especially women and farmers-turned labourers, from abuse, inequality and default payments.

The new legislation from the State Council takes effect today.

Minister of Labour and Social Security Zheng Silin said the Regulation on Labour and Social Security Inspection will become a powerful weapon to achieve the goals for the mainland's job market.

The regulation allows labour and social security inspectors to supervise employers, by entitling them to investigate whether employers have offered equal opportunities, provided insurance and holidays.

"The regulation is in line with China's Law of Labour Protection and it is expected to play a practical role in protecting the legal rights of millions of Chinese employees," said Zheng.

The country enacted laws on labour protection as early as 1994 but abuses and inequality remained in some enterprises and organizations.

Zheng said the new regulation will make some of the clauses in the law more specific.

The regulation also gives nearly 10 million farmers-turned-workers equal protection.

China has always placed a great deal of importance on the employment of women, youth and disabled people, providing a legal guarantee of equality for men and women and actively adopting preferential policies for the disabled.

"The regulation is a powerful weapon to remove those concerns," said Zheng.

With the country's sustained, rapid economic growth, the number of women in the job market has continuously grown, and the fields of employment for them have kept expanding.

According to official figures, there were 337 million women working in 2003, an increase of 46 million since 1990.

Currently, there are 41.56 million women employees in urban work units, accounting for 38 per cent of the total.

Despite the efforts, a trade union survey found that women are often the first employees to be laid off if enterprises plan to shorten their labour-load.

This grim reality was outlined in a recent 25-page report issued by the All-China Federation of Trade-Unions (ACFTU), describing conditions women face in the workplace.

The report was compiled from information gathered between 1978 and 2002 in such provinces as Liaoning, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Guangdong and Gansu.

It found that as reforms have been implemented in the transition to a market economy, industries such as the textile sector and some other female-dominated areas have sustained large-scale layoffs.

Not surprisingly, a disproportionate number of women would get the ax.

The number of urban women employed in the surveyed cities in 2002 was about 41.6 million, or 17.3 million less than in 1996.

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