Monday, November 23, 2015

Fortune story on China Labor Watch report

Fortune reported on the investigation of China Labor Watch into widespread and serious labor rights violations in Chinese toy factories supplying to top global toy brands. Forbes received responses from a number of the implicated toy brands. The beginning of the story is below. 

Hasbro, Mattel Toy Suppliers Slammed In Labor Report
November 22, 2015
by Claire Groden

China Labor Watch released results of undercover investigation.

Laborers at some toy factories in China work without adequate protection, toiling long hours with few, if any, breaks. Many facilities lack proper fire safety measures and subject workers to poor living conditions. For some, quitting means giving up earned wages. According to a new report by China Labor Watch, which investigated five major factories that supply toys to Hasbro and Mattel, labor violations are rampant in Chinese toy factories.

China Labor Watch sent undercover investigators to the factories, which altogether employ about 20,000 laborers. “Over the past 20 years, toy brands and retailers have reaped tremendous benefits from the labor and sometimes even the lives of Chinese workers,” China Labor Watch Program Coordinator Kevin Slaten said in a press release, “yet these companies fail to respect labor rights and to ensure that workers also enjoy the fruits of the toy industry’s success.”

The report found instances of hiring discrimination, mandatory and excessive overtime work, unpaid work, broken labor contracts, poor safety measures and few paths for laborers to seek recourse. Many of these issues also break Chinese labor law.

Read the rest of the Fortune story.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Lessons of the Tianjin Explosion

Aftermath of the Tianjin chemical explosion. Source: VOA

Below is my contribution to a conversation on ChinaFile about the destructive Tianjin chemical explosion. The entire conversation can be viewed here.

Five days before the terrifying and deadly Tianjin explosion was the first anniversary of the Kunshan Zhongrong Metal Products incident, where a massive metal dust explosion and fire killed at least 146 workers. In a report I wrote for this website about a month after the tragedy, I cited the latest casualty figure: 75. I also explained how the government apparently had deemed the incident a sensitive topic, censoring conversation and reporting. It was only in December, 2014, four months later, after the immediate shock had subsided, that the State Administration of Work and Safety revised the death toll in Kunshan to 146 people.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Is China's Reform Era Over and, If So, What's Next? (ChinaFile)

Fordham Law School professor Carl Minzer's article in the Journal of Democracy sparked a conversation on ChinaFile about the future of China's political landscape. Minzer's argument traces the political evolution of the Communist Party in the "Reform Era", when Deng Xiaoping took over the reigns of power in 1978, to the current day, a time when Xi Jinping's anti-graft campaign and re-entrenchment of nationalist rhetoric has set the Communist Party and China on a new path, which Minzer suggests constitutes a post-reform deliberalizing era. But where this path will ultimately lead currently remains a matter of oracle bones.

I had the chance to participate in the discussion at ChinaFile, which can be viewed here.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

No. 2 U.S. Sinologist Predicts "Endgame of Chinese Communist Rule Has Begun"

Photo credit: Kevin Poh. Creative Commons.

In January, researchers at China's Foreign Affairs University (外交学院) published the "American China School Assessment Report" (Chinese link), rating the top U.S. sinologists based on a number of broad measures: a person's influence on actual U.S. China policy, academic influence, and social influence. Specific sub-measures include a sinologist's publications, testimony in relevant congressional hearings, social network and affiliations, etc.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Raising the Minimum Wage Weeds Out Poor Working Conditions: An IMF Study Looking at China (含中文版)

Photo: Adjusting the minimum wage upward. Credit: Fufang Network.


A friend of mine (and IMF economist) shared a 2014 IMF study with me on the effects of raising the minimum wage in developing countries, using China as a case study. The study, called "Does Raising the Minimum Wage Hurt Employment? Evidence from China", delivers the following upshots: (1) "a 10% increase in the minimum wage lowers employment by 1%" and (2) "in low-wage firms, raising the minimum wage lowers employment but raises wages more than in high-wage firms."

My take on this data: the employment lost from a higher minimum wage probably includes contracted temp workers or short-term workers, which are not really steady employment and usually include a number of other harmful labor practices, such as a lack of labor contracts or mandated social benefits, underage or child labor, unpaid work and overtime wages, etc. In short, assuming effective enforcement, raising the minimum wage weeds out some exploitative conditions and leaves more stable, fair employment in its place.