The hidden side of China’s economic boom

This is an extract from the latest edition of the “China Labour Bulletin”:

“The Chinese government last week announced a series of measures to stabilize rapidly increasing food prices.

The new measures, which include boosting supplies of staples from government stockpiles, providing additional subsidies to needy families, and cracking down on speculators, clearly indicate the government’s concern over rising inflation and the effect it might have on social stability. In some regions of China, the prices of rice, cooking oil and some vegetables have doubled this year, creating a serious burden for China’s lowest paid workers and impoverished rural families.

Local governments across China raised the minimum wage by an average of 24 percent this year, but already those gains are being eroded by increases in the cost of food and accommodation. One of the main complaints of striking workers at Sanyo in Shenzhen this month, for example, was that the price of food at the company canteen had quadrupled immediately after their basic wage went up inline with the minimum wage.

Next month, the United Nation’s Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Olivier De Schutter, will lead an official mission to China. Professor De Schutter is a strong proponent of the idea that fair wages are essential to ensuring equal and adequate access to food, and he will be particularly interested to discover whether or not disadvantaged workers in China can negotiate and obtain a decent wage.”


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