Since many years, compliance of working time in china has been an old chestnut. We chat about it, some customers require it, but we have to admit Chinese factories are still very far from compliance on working time. Still, it doesn’t mean anything happen on that topic. These last few years, we shifted from a trend clearly above 70 hours a week several months per year to an average usually below 70 hours a week. Many factories are even working more than 65 hours a week only in really peak season. There is then obviously an improvement to acknowledge.
Recently, we have audited several factories with a working time much lower than the Chinese average and actually almost compliant with the legal working time which would have been a great change for our auditing team.
All these factories had at least one of these characteristics:
- The hourly rate wages was very high, much higher than the Chinese average.
- The workers were almost only local workers, mature one and in charge of a family.
In the first case, the workers could still earn monthly a salary equivalent to the averagely earned local wage, despite the much lower working time. Thus, the financial incentive for higher working time was prevented.
In the second case, family’s constraint to be home for the children education, the food preparation… change the priorities. The long working hours and especially the late working time became difficult.
These cases show some factories are trying a different approach in their workers’ management. It shows also that excessive working time is not a necessity, but it can be, if not fully avoided, at least managed to reasonable level by taking workers expectations into account for the balance to implement.
But we also have to point out another reason decreasing the average working time in China: the lack of orders. Indeed, many factories are not much loaded currently. Thus the working time decrease is pertaining to circumstances. If the orders increase again, the working time will increase too. We can actually also forecast an increase in the working time for the 2016 spring. Factories which have lacked orders won’t hire as many workers after the Chinese New Year. A new balance will then be found.
The working time is a highly volatile issue we should monitor closely in the coming months to confirm the working time in Chinese factories really tends to become acceptable.