China’s growing labor unrest boxes Beijing in

Chinese migrant laborers stage protest demanding pay
Xi’an, Feb. 2, 2015: Masked migrant laborers stage a protest demanding their overdue pay from a local entrepreneur (source: dpa)

Reports on China’s economic slowdown usually focus on the significant disturbance it has brought for the rest of the world. Worrying as the slowdown’s many implications for the global economy may be, they pale in comparison with the scale of the problem facing China itself.

In late February Yin Weimin, China’s Minister for Human Resources and Social Security, revealed that the government expected 1.8 million people to lose their jobs in China’s coal and steel industries alone.

  • The figure represents approximately 15 percent of those employed in both sectors
  • Unofficial estimates run as high as six million jobs to be lost in China’s entire labor market over the coming years
  • To maintain social calm, Beijing is cracking down on independent labor organizers and is beefing up the country’s security forces
  • The government is also financing new labor-intense investment projects and worker retraining schemes to ease the labor strife, but as China’s debt approached 200 percent of its GDP in 2015, the policy has obvious limitations

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