The Issue of Labor Practices and Policy Frameworks in China


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The world population is constantly increasing; currently, it is estimated at 7.7 billion and expected to reach the 9 billion mark in 2050. This development exerts pressure on the manufacturers and distributors of essential goods and services, including clothing. Pointedly, China is a major manufacturer in the global apparel market hosting manufacturing industries of major brands such as Nike and Adidas. As of 2010, the apparel exports from China to the United States were more than 38,000,000 USD. While the country continues to take the lead in the export business, a series of issues have come up and affected their manufacturing capabilities; these include labor practices and policy frameworks in the country.

China is one of the economies with the largest labor market. Pointedly, the country has fairly comprehensive legislative practices that entitle their workers` protection from exploitative employers. These workers are assured full and timely remuneration, formal employment contracts and other benefits. However, since the country’s economic slowdown in 2010, the country saw a decline in the refinement of legislative practices that support the plight of workers and legislators have roiled down some existing protective measures in a bid to create a more pro-business legislative framework.

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Despite the developments in the labor practices, the concerns of workers in the apparel industry have not been addressed. Working conditions and practices have been exploiting and damaging the basic rights and freedoms of workers. These exploitative labor conditions have placed multinationals at odds with their corporate social responsibilities. While these brand manufacturers strive to promote their corporate values, they continue to outsource their manufacturing to Chinese textile industries that operate with some of the unfair labor practices. For multinational brands, operations in China faces a series of challenges including limited human resources. Sourcing and developing domestic workforce particularly at the management levels and skilled personnel has been a challenge. The soaring labor costs have also continued to be a concern, salaries and costs of production have continued to increase tremendously. Further, these and other concerns such as industrial pollution has led to companies such as NIKE sought other countries such as Bangladesh.

The labor practices in these industries do not entirely allow freedom of association and the rights to protest. However, the country prohibits child labor and other discriminations at work. The country has not yet aligned its practices to the UN-ILO convention on freedom of association and collective bargaining. Foreign companies have often faced challenges maneuvering through the ever-growing labor laws, practices concerning social insurance and labor guidelines form different agencies. Additionally, compounded complexities, domestic challenges and the adoption by various localities of the country’s labor laws have often changed. Further, the labor contracts are often ignored by local employers dealing with a domestic workforce. Without these contractual arrangements employees struggle to argue their case when faced with unfair practices in the course of the duties as well as access to publicly allowed dispute resolution mechanism.

The entry to the international market and the pressure for Non-Governmental Organizational and trade unions have compelled the government to adopt a series of labor practices meant to guarantee decent working environments for textile and apparel workers. Some of the regulative practices include the New Labor Contract Laws (which is mostly concerned with a decent working environment), Trade Union Laws, China`s Social Compliance for Textile Industry, Regulations on Enterprise Minimum Wage and Product Safety Laws.

Fair trade practices, including the rights of employees and fair working conditions, are increasingly becoming points of interest in the academic research and global manufacturing and retailing practices; particularly in the apparel industry. The manufacturing of clothes and shoes is a complex practice and involves a series of activates such as design, sourcing of materials manufacturing and distribution through a process involves a series of partners. Although the industry offers valuable job opportunities to both low and high-income workers, it is often coupled with a series of challenges including poor working conditions and issues of labor crises. Although the country has set up measures meant to protect workers from exploitation, these practices need further adjustments to allow workers more freedom to express their grievances. The changing nature of the Chinese labor force implies that the workers in the apparel industry are increasingly becoming assertive on the issues that concern their welfare.

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