ILO official praises Hu’s commitment to social welfare

BEIJING – A senior official with the International Labour Organization (ILO), a specialized agency of the United Nations, spoke highly of Chinese President Hu Jintao’s pledge to promote employment and social security for all citizens.

In his speech at a grand gathering marking the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China on July 1, Hu said China “will give priority to promote employment, accelerate the development of social security and healthcare”.

He added that the government will “make more efforts to regulate income distribution and strive to ensure that all people enjoy the right to education, employment, and medical and old-age care”.

Ann Herbert, director of the ILO Country Office for China and Mongolia, told China Daily in an exclusive interview that the country has made tremendous progress in the fields of labor protection, employment promotion and social security in recent years, thanks to the government’s commitment to achieving full and productive employment for all.

China’s response to the global financial crisis – combining investment to stimulate employment, labor protection measures and the extension of social security coverage – had greatly mitigated the impact of the crisis on China and provided a good example for other countries to learn from, she said.

Many provinces in China have been raising minimum wages and the central government has promised to raise more in the future. But workers in the lower echelons of the country’s labor market are still being paid comparatively low wages.

Commenting on this, Herbert said additional measures are needed to ensure Chinese workers enjoy a fair share of the country’s booming economy.

Wage bargaining between workers and employers, more training and retraining opportunities for workers to help sustain productivity improvements, innovation in human resources management to encourage collaboration, consultation and dialogue with workers will all help to close the gap, she added.

Herbert said her organization has been cooperating with Chinese partners in promoting equal opportunities and treatment in employment, strengthening labor inspection services, building sound labor relations and improving employment services and workers’ access to social services.

Following the ILO Global Campaign on Social Security and Coverage for All, China has made remarkable progress in extending the social insurance system from urban to rural areas, she said.

Herbert said although China has made great progress in protecting workers’ legitimate rights, discrimination based on gender, age and social origin still exists in the labor market.

“For example, migrant workers still face unequal treatment in employment and access to social services in spite of concerted efforts by the government and social partners,” Herbert said. “Ensuring equal pay for work of equal value remains a challenge as well.”

She also pointed out that many preventable workplace accidents happen every year in China and more attention should be paid to reducing the incidence of occupational diseases.

“Much remains to be done to strengthen work safety, to develop a preventive safety culture at work and to enhance occupational safety and health administration and inspection,” she said.

As labor disputes continue to rise, Herbert suggested that sound labor relations through which workers’ rights are protected, working conditions improved and mechanisms put in place to prevent and resolve disputes are the key to more harmonious social development.

“I am confident that China has both the vision and the capacity to address these issues, and I expect to see great progress in the coming years,” she said.

Source: China Daily

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