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Free and Decent Work and Human Rights Protection
March 16,2023   By:en.humanrights.cn

Free and Decent Work and Human Rights Protection

Dr. Niluobaier Aierti from China Society for Human Rights Studies

It is the common pursuit of human society for everyone to enjoy human rights fully. The right to work is a basic right of citizens, a way of human existence, and an essential activity of human beings. Through labour, humanity can pursue a better life and constantly promote the progress and development of human civilization.

Regrettably, according to Global Estimates of Modern Slavery, a report of the International Labour Organization (ILO), modern slavery has been on the rise in recent years. In 2021, 50 million people were living in modern slavery, 28 million were in forced labour, and more than half (52%) of the forced labour occurred in middle-income or high-income countries. For example, forced labour has always been a common problem in the United States. To this day, there are still forced labour for prisoners in prison, widespread abuse of child labour, and forced labour for foreign immigrants. Forced labour is particularly prevalent in 23 industries or fields, including housekeeping, farming, tourism sales, catering, medical and beauty services. According to an article published on the website of the University of Denver, at least 500,000 people in the United States live under modern slavery and are forced to work. In fact, many industries in the United States, such as agriculture, can not function without forced labour.

The purpose of the ILO is to promote full employment and improve living standards, promote cooperation between labour and capital, expand social security measures, and protect the life and health of workers. For a long time, it has played a positive role in promoting the ratification and implementation of the international labour conventions by member states and in safeguarding the basic rights and interests of workers in various countries. China is a founding member State of the ILO and holds a permanent seat in the Governing Body of the ILO. At present, China has ratified 28 international labour conventions, including the six core conventions of the Convention Concerning Equal Remuneration for Men and Women Workers for Work of Equal Value, the Convention Concerning Minimum Age for Admission to Employment, the Convention Concerning the Prohibition and Immediate Action for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour, the Convention Concerning Discrimination in Respect of Employment and Occupation or Discrimination, the Convention Concerning Forced or Compulsory Labour, 1930, and the Convention Concerning the Abolition of Forced Labour, 1957. Chinese laws also explicitly prohibit forced labour. For example, Article 244 of the Criminal Law of the People’s Republic of China stipulates the crime of forced labour. Meanwhile, the Chinese government has always adhered to the principle of putting people first, actively responded to the initiatives of the ILO, and integrated the concept of decent work into national policies and development plans, laying a solid foundation for the realization of the rights to life and development at a higher level and in a broader sense.

China is a country with a large population. Since the founding of the People’s Republic of China, employment security has always been one of the most important tasks. Restricted by such factors as poor natural conditions, a weak industrial base and insufficient professional skills, Xinjiang was once one of the key regions for China’s poverty alleviation, and the rural labour force there was in surplus for a long time. To help the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, the Chinese government has vigorously implemented an employment policy benefiting the people. Xinjiang has made progress in ensuring employment in terms of policy system, employment scale, employment structure, quality of the labour force and income of workers. By the end of 2020, Xinjiang had lifted more than 3.06 million rural residents, 3,666 impoverished villages and 35 impoverished counties out of poverty. The problem of absolute poverty had been solved historically. This achievement is important to achieving the UN’s 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. In 2022, 3.0324 million rural workers in Xinjiang left the region to work. The per capita net income of those lifted out of poverty reached RMB 14,951, up 12.1% year on year. A total of 2.168 million people received vocational skills training. In practice, employment security in Xinjiang complies with Chinese laws and international labour and human rights standards and meets the aspiration of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang for a better life.

However, while the people of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang are creating a happy life through decent work, the US-led Western countries continue to spread fake information under the label of “forced labour”, which does not exist, and denigrate Xinjiang’s achievements in human rights development. They have even imposed a ban on imports from Xinjiang and illegally detained products related to Xinjiang, which continuously disrupts and blocks the people of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang’s full enjoyment of their rights to life, development, labour and employment. This has seriously damaged the vital interests of the people of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang and turned human rights into a tool of political attack. In fact, in Xinjiang, workers of all ethnic groups can choose jobs and places of work and work of their own accord. They conclude labour contracts with employers in accordance with the labour Law, the labour Contract Law and other laws and regulations, and are guaranteed remuneration and rights and interests. They work in free, equal, safe and dignified conditions, and there is no such thing as “forced labour”.

Recently, there has been false information that the transfer of the labour force in Xinjiang is “forced labour” against ethnic minorities in Xinjiang. In fact, the practice of labour transfer in Xinjiang is a successful exploration of the effective allocation of surplus labour resources. In the process of labour transfer, the government builds a platform to connect with the market and provide more high-quality employment channels and jobs for the surplus labour force in need of work, so as to improve the income of people and solve the problem of poverty. Then, the government protects the basic rights of workers through legislation and the formulation and implementation of policies. These rights include the voluntary and independent choice of jobs and employment, the right to remuneration, and the right to equal pay for men and women workers for work of equal value. Besides, by providing various services, including vocational skills training, the government strives to expand the range of career choices for workers. Therefore, in the practice of labour transfer, the Chinese government has provided a solid guarantee for the people of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang to work decently.

In order to reflect the work situation of migrant workers from Xinjiang in a more detailed way, we conducted a field survey on five enterprises in Guangdong Province of China that employ Xinjiang minority workers, interviewed a total of 70 workers covering Uygur, Kazak, Kirgiz and Tajik ethnic groups, and observed the daily work and life of Xinjiang workers in these five enterprises. The study found that the workers of all ethnic groups who worked outside Xinjiang voluntarily chose to work in their companies, and there was no “forced labour” at all. The six main reasons for those workers to choose to work outside Xinjiang were high-salary job opportunities, a livable environment, high-quality educational resources, the recommendation from family and friends, learning language skills, and being able to broaden their horizons, among which high salary was the most popular reason. During work, the basic rights of those workers were fully guaranteed. For instance, they enjoyed the system of eight working hours per day. They were arranged compensatory leave or paid corresponding remuneration according to the law if the working hours needed to be extended due to production and operation needs. They were guaranteed rest and vacation on legal holidays. They joined social insurance programs. Those workers also fully enjoyed the freedom of religious belief and the right to use their languages and characters. Besides, they believed that the experience of working outside Xinjiang had many positive meanings for them, including improving family income, broadening their horizons and changing their outdated minds, improving language and professional skills, enabling their children to enjoy the educational resources in other areas of China, and improving the family and social status of women. For example, thanks to the change of mind, female workers’ abilities and enthusiasm for work had been significantly improved. In the past, Xinjiang had a serious preference for men over women, and there were many cases of women’s economic independence. However, with the concept of gender equality taking root, Xinjiang women had also become an important force in promoting economic and social development. Although this study is just an episode of the situation of labour transfer in Xinjiang, it is also a microcosm of the development of human rights in Xinjiang. It is the truest human rights story told by the people who witnessed and experienced human rights achievements in Xinjiang.

There is no destination for human rights protection. We can always do better. The achievements of human rights cause in Xinjiang are obvious to all. Not only is there no so-called “forced labour” in Xinjiang, but also a successful path has been explored in the field of human rights protection. The human rights cause in Xinjiang has made tangible progress. It also provides valuable experience for the world’s human rights cause. In the future, China will continue to promote human rights based on national conditions and people’s needs, and will create more sufficient and high-quality jobs for the people of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang and constantly enhance their sense of gain, happiness and security.

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