Coronavirus: 6 million Chinese return to work; social protections at risk

In Guangdong 90% of industries have resumed production. Wealthy provinces better equipped to face the crisis. The service sector also collapses. Dangers of new infections in factories. In addition to wages, workers can lose pensions and liquidation.

Beijing (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Over 6 million migrant workers have returned to factories in Guangdong, the manufacturing heart of China. Restrictive measures imposed by the government to curb the spread of Wuhan's coronavirus hinder the full recovery of productive activities. The fear is that large displacements of the population may spread the virus to areas far from the main outbreaks.

According to official data, at the end of February only 30% of the 300 million migrant workers (residing in rural areas, but employed in urban and industrial areas) were available. The wealthiest provinces are the fastest to bring staff back to work, also organizing special flights and trains, and offering economic bonuses. In Guangdong, for example, 90% of industries have resumed production.

However, medium and small businesses continue to face serious difficulties. The most important companies are better equipped to deal with the crisis and receive the bulk of the aid made available by the national financial system: over 1000 billion yuan (about 129 billion euros) so far, along with facilities for access to credit.

The economic situation in China remains weak. The Asian giant is likely to enter recession in the first quarter of 2020. After the collapse of production, that of services was also certified. The sector's Caixin / Markit index plunged to 26.5 points in February, from 51.8 in the previous month (below 50 means that the sector is in contraction).

The problem for many workers is not only that of resuming their activities. The China Labor Bulletin notes that they are often not guaranteed adequate protection from lung infections. A large plastic manufacturer in Anhui had to close its doors again on March 2 after 500 employees tested positive. The infection occurred through one worker who had no symptoms. The crisis risks seriously impacting renumeration and consequently, social protection, such as pensions and liquidations in the event of possible dismissal, are also in danger.