Local govts urged to increase incomes
Updated: 2013-10-22 08:09
By He Dan (China Daily)
Goal of economic development is to benefit people, premier says
Premier Li Keqiang urged local governments on Monday to work harder to increase workers' incomes and social insurance. Trade union representatives pledged to strengthen collective bargaining to meet the goals.
"The ultimate goal of economic development is to benefit our people," Li said during his report delivered to around 1,900 delegates at the 16th National Congress of the All-China Federation of Trade Unions, who gathered in Beijing for the five-day meeting that ends on Tuesday.
The government will create more job opportunities, ensure workers' incomes increase in line with economic growth and share the fruits of development, he said.
He stressed that all levels of government should attach great importance to solving problems involving pensions, healthcare, minimum living subsidies and housing.
Li said he noticed a worrying phenomenon that some employers failed to make a contribution to their workers' insurance when their companies encountered difficulties.
As China aims to move away from an export dependent economy to consumption-based economic development, wages should increase in step with productivity improvements, said Youngmo Yoon, a senior specialist on industrial relations and social dialogue at the International Labour Organization's office in Beijing.
"Our studies in China have also shown that robust collective bargaining based on active participation of workers can reduce wage gaps," he said. "Trade unions play a crucial role in ensuring better balance of distribution and redistribution. It is paramount that trade unions become effective in conducting collective bargaining."
Cui Minglong, vice-chairman of the federation of trade unions in the Inner Mongolia autonomous region, said he felt encouraged by the premier's speech.
"Our Party and central government's emphasis on protecting workers' rights sends out clear signals and will enable trade union officials to better promote collective bargaining in terms of pay and social insurance," he said.
"In the past, some local governments tried every means possible to attract investment including absurd promises of no obligations to pay workers' social insurance.
"But thanks to the reform of the evaluation mechanism of government officials, especially after improving people's livelihoods became a vital factor to decide whether an official would be promoted, local governments became more motivated to support trade unions' work to protect workers' rights," he added.
Li also said the government will further increase resources and investment to provide training for workers, in order to "transfer the population dividend to a talent dividend".
He said local governments should make more efforts to help disadvantaged groups.
He said he felt happy to see that 22 provincial-level governments have enhanced the benchmark of minimum wage standards by 18.4 percent on average and the human resources authorities have pressed employers to pay arrears of around 14.5 billion yuan ($2.4 billion) to migrant workers.
The new leadership of the All-China Federation of Trade Unions was elected on Monday with Li Jianguo voted chairman.
(China Daily 10/22/2013 page2)