Rights are conditions, they are the liberty that lets humans take a break and stay healthy in their way of life, developing their individuality and ideas. In liberal democratic systems, every individual is entitled to have certain rights. It is the government that is in charge to honor rights by creating and protecting their rights. There are no true and respected worker rights set but an organization called ‘The International Labor Organization’ (ILO) rely on a set of “fundamental principles and rights at work” that all ILO Members have an obligation to respect and promote, which are:
-freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining;
-elimination of all forms of forced or compulsory labor;
-effective abolition of child labor; and
-elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation.
Despite the reported issues in the rights given to workers in China, we can still notice the economical impact of the Chinese production. We are going to be answering: what was happening in China during the industrial change and has that had consequences on the worker’s rights? How does China compare to a country who is said to have a well-respected set of rules? What are some of the occasional crimes that take place in China’s unregulated set of rules?
I will first talk about the historical context, followed by the Chinese worker rights compared to Iceland’s finishing off by crimes in worker rights.
Firstly, in 35 years, China transformed itself from an impoverished agrarian economy into an industrial powerhouse that produces nearly half of the world’s industrial goods. Ruled by Mao in the 1950’s China started to industrialize itself, its industrialization received the name of Maoist Great Leap Forward. This was the plan used from 1958 to 1961 to transform the People’s Republic of China from a primarily agrarian economy by peasant farmers into a modern communist society through the process of agriculturalization and industrialization.
Mao Zedong based this program on the Theory of Productive Forces. The theory of the productive forces is a widely disseminated variation of historical materialism and Marxism that places primary emphasis on technical advances as the basis for advances and changes in the social structure and culture of a given civilization.
It ended in catastrophe due to widespread drought towards the end of the period that led to widespread famine. As political stability was gradually restored following the Cultural Revolution of the late 1960s, a renewed drive for coordinated, balanced development was set in motion under the leadership of Premier Zhou Enlai. In 1984, the fourteen largest coastal cities were designated as economic development zones, including Dalian, Tianjin, Shanghai, and Guangzhou, all of which were major commercial and industrial centers. These zones were to create productive exchanges between foreign firms with advanced technology and major Chinese economic networks.
During the economical development, worker rights weren’t of any concern, through old photographs we can notice that the machine weren’t safe, and they could’ve been injured easy. In addition, there were no tables which meant health endangerment.
Secondly, owing to the ILO, we can estimate how a country’s workers rights and laws are respected. The ITUC Global Rights Index rates countries from one to five according to 97 indicators, with an overall score placing countries in one to five rankings:
1 – Irregular violations of rights: 18 countries including Denmark and Uruguay
2 – Repeated violations of rights: 26 countries including Japan and Switzerland
3 – Regular violations of rights: 33 countries including Chile and Ghana
4 – Systematic violations of rights: 30 countries including Kenya and the USA
5 – No guarantee of rights: 24 countries including Belarus, Bangladesh, China and Qatar
5+ – No guarantee of rights due to breakdown of the rule of law: 8 countries including Central African Republic and Somalia.
A country such as Iceland finds itself in the first category, comparing it to China would be interesting. The minimum wage very distinctive as the minimum pay wage would be around 59 dollars an hour but a minimum wage worker in china would gain from 1.25 dollars- 3 dollars working 14-16 hours a day with 6 days a week. Also, there receive one short break for lunch and another for dinner. Children that worked there prove there is a problem. Children should not be allowed to work. Instead, they worked 14 hours a day, made 10 cents a day, and had lack of sunlight and exercise which developed physical deformities especially surrounding their legs. Plus, there was only natural light that shown through the rare windows in the room, meaning they were not in upright conditions to work with such unsafe machines, they were as well, short in space, leading them to be very close together while working. Not to mention the lack of hygiene they were faced with (dusty and dirty environment). The dust and dirt lead to lung diseases and other painful, deteriorating illnesses. In Iceland, the worker can sit on a chair while they’re working, have maximum 11 hours a day and work in clean, stable grounds. In Iceland the minimum age one can work would be 13 years old but should only work safe and easy jobs and tasks with a mandatory training and schooling. Icelandic minimum wage workers are in better conditions than Chinese ones.
Thirdly, due to poverty, China’s worker rights and poor conditions, this has lead citizens and workers to commit crimes like stealing, raping, corruption… On the records, none of them really appear but some anonymous people have confessed of there crimes. One commonly known crime is the raping and abusing of woman workers by their bosses. As well as values stating that a woman is inferior to a man, the fact that the women are in unwanted, desperate positions… A lot of the crimes go unknown though, due to the harshness and strictness of the Chinese laws.
In Conclusion, due to the industrialization of China, the worker laws have not been updated yet to a safer more open set of laws encouraging the workers with a more self-indulged life. The brutal conditions they have been put in have led to atrocious psychological and physical effects and are frankly very different from the ones in Iceland and other countries that have been ranked in the first category.