06/02/2010, 00.00
Send to a friend

The "new" Chinese working class, willing to commit suicide rather than bend to oppression

Foxconn announces wage increases of 30%. But experts believe that the many suicides are a demand for more humane working conditions. 145 million migrants, ready to fight for their right to live.

Beijing (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Yesterday, the company Foxconn, a leader in technology, which has seen 11 suicides this year in its Longhua factory (Shenzhen), announced 30% wage increase for assembly line workers. But experts point out the need to review the whole organization of work that has made China "the world's factory" for the price of inhumane working conditions, for the exclusive benefit of Western capitalist multinationals and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

Foxconn official sources have expressed their hope "that the wage increase will help improve the living standards of workers and allow them to have more free time."

Analysts note, however, no one in China seems to want to address the issue of working conditions or the absence of unions to protect workers' rights.

Faced with suicides motivated by work stress, Foxconn defends itself by saying that it does not violate the law and applies working conditions similar to those in other Chinese factories. According to the workers in the company, the "normal" working conditions include 12-hour shifts, with a ban on speaking with to colleagues, sitting or unnecessary absences. Workers are subject to a military discipline both at work and in company canteens and dormitories and are fined for the slightest offense, even washing their clothes in the dormitory.  They are not allowed to contradict their superiors direct orders.

Lee Jen-hsing, an expert in Taiwan, told the South China Morning Post that "in past decades migrant workers came from families with limited resources and agreed to stay in free dorms under the strict control of managers." "But the new generation want jobs with more freedom and democracy."

85% of 400 thousand factory employees in Shenzhen are young immigrants born after the 80s, who do not accept this pace of work. Meanwhile, in the last five months, employment of the industrial workers in China has grown at its fastest rate in 5 years, which has helped make workers aware of their importance in the production process.  It is the generation the one child family, who have always had the complete attention of their the whole family and do not expect only a salary from their job, or a life enslaved to the assembly line.  The wage demands at the Honda factory in Foshan, whose workers have received significant salary increases are only one aspect of this demand fairer working conditions.

Migrant workers are estimated at least 145 million, approximately 11% of the population.  In order to maintain economic growth, Beijing relies on increased domestic consumption to offset reduced exports to the West. But this is contributing to workers demands for not only more material goods, but also leisure and democracy. Internet has also helped to circumvent the strict censorship of state media and increase awareness of these problems throughout the country and the world.

Experts note that the claims will be difficult to meet, because China lacks unions to protect workers rights and that the national union, the All-China Federation of trade unions, is headed by the CPC and bends to State interests. Attempts to create independent unions have been increasingly repressed in recent years. But the example of Honda shows the growing ability of workers to see their claims met. In recent years, there have been frequent strikes for economic reasons. The Foxconn suicides also show the workers difficulty to organize: Local sources report that workers at Foxconn are encouraged to spy on colleagues and rewarded if they do. But they also show how the problem can not be simply ignored.

Send to a friend
Printable version
See also
Slogans and clown masks against suicides at Foxconn
Chinese workers for McDonald's, Kentucky Fried Chicken and Pizza-Hut are underpaid
Foxconn suicides: capitalism and Marxism treat people like animals
Labour disputes on the rise in China
Work-related suicides due to indifference, Hong Kong trade union leader says


Subscribe to Asia News updates or change your preferences

Subscribe now
“L’Asia: ecco il nostro comune compito per il terzo millennio!” - Giovanni Paolo II, da “Alzatevi, andiamo”