Dongguan campaigns against child labor

Updated: 2014-12-17 07:45

By Li Wenfang in Guangzhou(China Daily USA)

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A campaign against the illegal use of labor, including child labor, has been launched in the industrial hub of Dongguan, Guangdong province, following the death last month of a 13-year-old boy who worked at a shoe factory.

The initiative will continue until Jan 30 and targets labor-intensive sectors such as restaurants and the manufacture of shoes, toys and electronic goods.

Labor agents working in these sectors, and companies that have been punished in the past for using child labor, will also be scrutinized, according to the city's human resources bureau.

Companies that use or supply child workers and illegal foreign workers will be severely punished.

Identity document forgery, the abduction of children to work in factories, and forced labor are also being targeted, the bureau said.

The boy who died, Li Youbin, from a poor family in Yunnan province, moved to Dongguan in September. His employment at the shoe factory was arranged by an agent, and he was given the identity of a man from Sichuan province. The youngster died after finishing work on Nov 16.

A labor shortage in recent years has resulted in the use of child labor in the country's economically developed regions.

Dongguan authorities found 11 cases of the use of child workers in an inspection of 2,999 employers involving 582,400 workers between April and June.

Some students were sent by their teachers to work in the city during the summer vacation.

A toy company in Dongguan was punished by the Guangdong Human Resources and Social Security Department for using child labor in one of 23 major cases involving breaches of the Labor Law in the province, according to an announcement in September.

The use of child labor at Dongguan's many small factories is not uncommon, said Tian Dangsheng, a lawyer at Guangzhou's Greenleaf Law Firm.

"Employers should be required to keep detailed records of their workers, parents must keep an eye on their children, and the labor authorities should supervise the situation properly," he said.

An association of labor contracting agencies was established in Dongguan last month to help to regulate the sector. Some agencies have been involved in irregularities including failing to provide a labor contract, withholding benefits such as social insurance and housing payments, and late payment of wages.

A total of 1,650 labor agencies are registered with the city's industry and commerce administration, but only 657 have received a permit from the human resources bureau authorizing them to conduct business.

Hou Zhengang, chairman of the new association, said the country is trying to reduce the use of contract laborers - those supplied by agencies rather than being employed directly by the company where they work.

However, demand for this category of worker is expected to remain high in Dongguan for at least another 10 years due to the scale of the city's labor-intensive industries.

Zhou Chutian contributed to this story.

(China Daily USA 12/17/2014 page6)