back to article Chinese feel pressure to work longer hours

The average Chinese worker spends eight hours and forty minutes a day exchanging their labour for currency, and 30% work for at least ten hours, according to a new study by the nation's Institute of Social Science, together with Peking University and recruitment agency One reason for the long hours, according to …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ineffectual unions some other time

    The unions in China are quite effectual for what they are supposed to be - the henchmen of the (pseudo)communist party apparatus. This is the standard set-up for a "communist" country - the incumbent unions are the party right hand and enforcers. It allowed the "Eastern Block" to see little or no industrial revolt for 70 years (sole exemption being Leh Valenca grasroot union in Poland) and it is still working quite well in China.

    Any "westerner" expectation that the Chinese trade union is there to defend the interests of the workers is very misguided to start with. They are there to ensure that a grassroot union does not arise while defending the interests of the communist party and the factory owner approved by the party to own the factory. For the smaller factories that "own" should probably be in quotes.

    1. Anonymous Coward 101

      Re: Ineffectual unions some other time

      "This is the standard set-up for a "communist" country - the incumbent unions are the party right hand and enforcers."

      That was always the problem when 'the workers' take over the country. Who could possibly strike when 'the workers' own industry? Only a counter revolutionary! Things go haywire when governments have to act both as capitalist and as representative of labour.

      1. Some Beggar

        Re: Ineffectual unions some other time

        Ummm. At what point in the last three thousand years do you think "the workers" controlled China?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Ineffectual unions some other time

      The situation is not exactly as simple as what it was in good old polarized times of the Cold War.

      First, take note that it is the People's Daily that says the union are too weak. They are the official tabloid of the Party, not independent press.

      From my experience, the unions in China do help improve things somewhat, by at least reporting problems to Party, which then sometimes tries to fix them. The goal of the Party is to stay in power. Party members, if anything, are smart enough to realize that crushing the People's hopes and life is not a way to attain that goal. So they do really make efforts to improve people's lives. From my European view point, the Party is much more listening to the needs of the People than Usanians corporations (which are currently striving to get even more political power). Mostly, I think, because the Party's goal is actually building and keeping a nation, and not solely executives' bonuses, which can flow from one tax heaven to another easily.

      And yes, there is the West. A few years back, there was Chinese legislation to be enacted that would improve workers' conditions. It was *Western* companies that lobbied the Chinese government to stop that, because it would reduce their margin and increase the prices for their Westerns consumers.

      So this is not Lech Walesa's Poland. It's today's China, which has no precedent in history for its development.

      1. Chimp

        Re: Ineffectual unions some other time

        Bingo... Shows a little actual knowledge.

        Owning a factory in China is pretty easy. Just needs money and a little local knowledge.

        Getting and keeping workers, contrary to other comments here, is hard. There are lots of jobs for a limited pool of workers. You need to offer high salaries and good fringe benefits, and even then you are going to have high staff turnover. My overall feeling us that labour conditions on the mainland are now better than in Hong Kong.

  2. Aldous

    weak due to numbers

    Chinese factories are mostly staffed by young women (and some men) from the country looking for a better quality of life. If they get uppity about being working conditions/being maimed/killed etc and dare to strike the factory can just lay them all off. plenty more where they came from. Bung the local commissar a bit more in the monthly bribe and you can even get the local police to break skulls if they get uppity

    1. Chimp

      Re: weak due to numbers

      Probably happens in some places, but it's not the rule. Citations for these statements would be useful.

  3. ratfox Silver badge

    The average Chinese worker has less than two legs

    I get bugged by sentences which state "the average Chinese works so many hours", rather than "Chinese work so many hours in average".

    1. Some Beggar

      Re: The average Chinese worker has less than two legs

      Do you also get "bugged" by sentences that confuse the word "on" for the word "in"?

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So it's just like any (non public sector) office based industry then where unions don't exist.

    The lower ranking staff at my employer usually work 8 - 6 (or even 7) every day with no lunch break and if they don't - they get 0 bonus (their pay is already very low for the job they are doing).

    Finance is not what it's made out to be by the media.

  5. Jason Hindle

    Not as bad as I'd assumed

    I'd assumed they work far longer hours than this in China. But then again, the whole working practice is different to anything we're used to seeing. How bad it really is depends on other factors. If the dorm they go back to in the evening is good enough and if the on site facilities are decent and cheap enough to allow them to save most of what they earn, then the working conditions in some of these places may not be (quite) as bad as they seem.

  6. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Big Brother

    Unions, eh?

    So who ever came up with the idea that it's "unions" who are responsible for lower working hours ... instead of, say, higher productivity through capital accumulation?

    Unions are there for breaking stuff in anger and keeping wages high by keeping competing labor out on the street. And for getting certain people elected.

    Sometimes they may shift investment into better working conditions, but I'm not sure that's the norm.

    1. frank 3

      Re: Unions, eh?

      Gosh, I hope you don't take any statutory sick pay when you keel over sick, or statutory holiday or enjoy employment rights of any kind. If you do, then you have unions to thank.

      Is your 6 year-old not apprenticed to the local mill? If not, then you have unions to thank.

      Even if you are freelance, you benefit from all that because you can and do price in the risk of not having those, secure in the knowledge that the employer has to pay for that for a permie.

      Higher productivity through capital accumulation can be a good thing, but there need to be checks and balances to ensure that those accumulating the capital don't just exploit people like slaves.

      Even a cursory reading of history will show you that those at the top of the heap aren't generally very good at sharing with those at the bottom of the heap. Unions help redress that problem. You may not like them, but boy are they necessary.

    2. Dan Paul

      Re: Unions, eh? Must be a Management Cacksucker

      People like you that have no idea what our unions have done for the common man that should never get the benefit of those workers sacrifice. I'm not even a member anymore but I used to be an Autoworker 20 years ago.

      I agree about getting people elected but that only serves to counter the rich taking care of even richer folk electing only those who rape and pillage.

      You would not have any paid health benefits, vacation time, sick time, decent wages, minimal protection from discrimination, you'd have backcharges against your paycheck for not meeting quota when machines breakdown, you

      "Productivity" is a euphemism for rich bosses standing on the smoking carcass of dead employees so they can reach the "golden ring" we all paid for with our blood, sweat and tears.

      The "capital" they "accumulated" should have been shared more equitably than it has (and is now)

    3. MacGyver

      Re: Unions, eh?

      Let me guess DAM, you get all your news from FOX as well. I'm not even really sure how one would go about reprogramming a person to have opinions that are counter to their own well being, please do tell how you came to think in that way. I'm only partially being a douche bag, I really truly want to know, I mean unless you are JP Morgan, I can't see you having that attitude towards unions. Are you really a millionaire factory tycoon?

      I think you might want to talk to you father or grand-father and get their opinion of unions and then make that your own. You do realize the reason we all don't make $3 a day and work 7-days a week from age 6 until we die is because of the collective power unions gave the average employee? Granted there have been some union leaders that were criminal, but there have been criminals in every position ever made at some point, that doesn't make the whole world bad, does it?

      Let me paint you a picture:

      Say there is a town where there are only 5 people living, one has a rich father that leaves him some money, so he buys a factory. He goes about hiring the 4 other guys in town, the 4 other guys are thrilled because before this factory came, they were eating dirt and starving because they had no money, and now they do. The problem is that after a while the owner realizes that he is the only place in town these guys can work, so he starts increasing their work day, the guys can't really complain, because they like living, and that means eating, and that takes money, which means a job, and the factory is the only one in town. So it becomes the norm, working 10 hours a day, 6 days a week. Soon the owner realizes that he could increase his personal profits if he lowered the salaries, it's not like there is anywhere else that these guys can work, and the workers have no choice, you know, the whole "needing food" thing. After a while the workers realize that the owner needs them to work the factory for him to make money, and they decide to "collectively" approach the owner, and use their collective power to bargain against him. The owner still wants as much profit as he can get, but on some level knows that without any workers his profits are $0, so because they now understand that they each need each other to live and get what they want, they will each make the compromises that they need to be happy. The owner will make still make a profit, only slightly less, and the workers will work only 8 hour days but if the need arises are prepared to will work longer hours, but for more pay. Collectively they were a union, and they used it to reach an equilibrium with the owners wants verses their own.

      TLDR; I know, but clearly you needed a refresh on using 3rd grade logic and reasoning. Show me a company that closed because of unions, they don't, that would be killing the patient to cure the disease. They each will each reach a middle ground, granted the profits won't be as high as they want, but if they could get away with it, most business owners would pay their employees nothing. Unfortunately politicians today remove the import tariffs that would force those jobs to stay in their own country, and owners now just opt to send jobs to China, where they finally get to pay their workers $3 a day to work 6-days a week, because there are no unions there that protect the workers.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'll have to tell my boss I work as hard as a Chinaman.

    Then again from dealing with our Chinese suppliers it seems that as soon as you are off the factory floor you work very few hours and mostly just pass work down to your subordinates.

    One Chinese company we use has a dedicated UK sales office with 20+ "workers" which seems to exist solely to give its management staff 1 year vacations.

    AC Because the boss is watching.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I'm still watching.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    The Chinese have this??

  9. Long Fei


    It's probably also to do with the fact that Chinese bosses like to have their workers in for all hours. It doesn't matter they aren't working, I've seen Chinese staff slumped on their desk asleep often, but they have to be IN.

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