End of April has been full of press release on abuses in labor world. Some are tragic situations as the death of dozens of workers of a Moroccan factory. Emergency doors weren’t accessible leading workers to be shut in inferno. Other situation no less tragic but running on a daily basis. It seems to us that the most significant press release has been the issuing on April 30th by the Chinese daily paper “Southern Cities News”. The article was about child traffic between Sichuan and Guangdong to provide child workers to factories.
This event is memorable for several reasons. Firstly because of the facts: We point the return of child labor out especially in Guangdong (Rich industrial province of southern China) since more than one year now. Actually, even if child labor never fully disappeared, it was very rarely and did not really affect the exporting industries. But since one year now, factories face difficulties to hire and that leads sometimes companies to be less respectful of the rules and infringe sometimes by hiring child about 15 years old. Meanwhile, in the situation exposed on the end of April it is no more taking a little too much freedom with a rule generally respected, but an organization to bring children at work. The newspaper recounts a situation affecting hundreds (and maybe thousands) of children, traffic practices with beater network, a complete organization in Dongguan city (one of the major industrial town of Guangdong) to manage children arrival, housing and employment. An informal market was set up to allow factories managers to select the children. The worst forms of this kind of traffic have been recount as kidnappings, sexual abuses, and violence. Dedicated teams came to factories to ensure the factories this task force will remain submissive.
The second memorable factor of this article is its origin. Generally, articles on such a subject are firstly issued in Hong Kong or abroad newspapers then finally mentioned in PR China. But this article is a PR China article that has been taken up by international media.
That lead us to few comments. First about child labor in China, as we evoke in a previous newsletter, it seems that child labor is changing from “new” last year to praxis of Chinese industry. The extreme situation recount here , even if they are probably marginal if speaking of quantity involved, are evidence of a request from factories and the sign of a spreading situation (the quoted factories as using child labor were electronic ones and even not lower technology industry). Consequently, all Chinese industry is affected and suppliers’ follow up policy make all their sense.
A second comment is about Chinese public opinion. It is often said in western countries that Chinese public opinion is nonexistent. However, such articles push every human being to react. Thus Chinese public opinion requires measure to stop this traffic and to punish the culprits. The Chinese middle class gets closer the one of western countries about protection of the weakest.