“China rural migrants young, restless and online”

Reuters has a piece up summarizing the release of new information on migrant workers by the China Labour Bulletin:

China’s young migrant workers believe manufacturers can afford bigger pay rises and they are increasingly willing to strike to win them, according to a report that documents the spread of labor unrest across the country’s export zones.

The Hong Kong-based China Labour Bulletin, which advocates stronger rights for workers, also said in the report on Tuesday the tens of millions of young migrants from the Chinese countryside are increasingly adept at using the Internet to mobilize.

“Workers now understand that many enterprises are profitable enough to accommodate wage increases, and the workers are now more determined and able to push for those increases,” the non-governmental organization said.

“Whereas in the past, workers tended to wait for their rights to be violated before taking action, they are now becoming more proactive.”

More than 100 million rural Chinese people will settle in towns and cities in the next decade, many of them young migrants who lack old-age and medical insurance in the places they want to call home, China’s National Population and Family Planning Commission said in a report.

“I don’t have a definite direction. I work in this factory today and the other tomorrow,” Wang Long, a 24-year-old migrant worker in Beijing told Reuters TV. “What can I do if I get old? It will be very bad if I cannot have a formal and stable job when I’m in my thirties. How could I raise my family then?”

Although migrant workers have often won pay rises in recent years, they feel poorly served by China’s official, Communist Party-run trade union, which has often sided with management in factory disputes, the China Labour Bulletin said in the report.

Instead, strikes and labor protests have spread through informal channels, with workers often using mobile phones and Internet message sites to coordinate, it added.

“They are giving each other in real time updates of their protests, and this has allowed workers’ rights groups, lawyers interested in workers’ rights, to offer advice, help them push their demands,” said Crothall, the Labour Bulletin spokesman, speaking of these digital tools.

The China Labour Bulletin report estimates that in 2009 China experienced about 30,000 collective labor protests, and adds there is “certainly no reason to suspect that the number of strikes is decreasing.”

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Filed under labor dispute, migrant workers

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