Archive for 8.5.3 Construction

Deconstructing Construction in China

Abstract This short paper aims to summarise the current condition of China’s construction industry from a labour perspective. The industry has been indispensable to the government’s overall economic strategy over the last 25 years of reform and has played a central role in employment policy, urban housing reform and large-scale infrastructure projects. How the construction industry is managed also has an indirect impact on migration policy, property management, urbanisation, anti-corruption campaigns and even education and medical reforms. Given the centrality of the industry to the economy’s overall health as well as the labour-related issues that the re-structuring of the industry has thrown up, it is surprising how little non-academic attention it has attracted. This paper will begin with a brief profile of the industry at present and the direction it is likely to go in. A middle section will summarise the workforce and employment structure in the context of the subcontracting system. Unfortunately we do not have space to examine the latter in the detail it deserves. The final section will look at labour relations through the prism of a major issue facing workers on site: wage arrears. Apologies are offered in advance for failing to cover, other than in passing, health and safety issues. Again space precludes an adequate appraisal and while there are obviously specific reasons why  China’s construction industry offers the second most dangerous jobs – after mining – the absence of effective and participatory trade union power is at the core of all bad health and safety practice, regardless of industry or sector.  We conclude by arguing that there is an urgent need for imaginative policies from the central government. The emergence of a complex system of sub-contracting, the continuing discriminatory environment that building workers find themselves in, and the industry’s poor health and safety performance are just some of the problems demanding powerful trade union action. The government must apply itself to the task of creating the space for construction workers to organise, both in the official trade union and – crucially – beyond it. It is only through genuine and participatory representation that the stability which both the government and construction workers are clearly seeking will emerge.
Author ITUC/GUF Hong Kong Liaison Office (IHLO)
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8 Energy Intensive Industries, 8.5.3 Construction

Facts and Figures- up to date and regularly updated information on the construction sector including workforce, type of workers, wages, contracts, etc

Publisher ITUC/GUF Hong Kong Liaison Office (IHLO)
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8.5 Workers in Intensive Energy Industries, 8.5.3 Construction