Working overseas can mean little say in payment

Updated: 2012-12-12 09:58

By Hu Yongqi and Yang Wanli (China Daily)

  Comments() Print Mail Large Medium  Small 分享按钮 0

According to China's Regulation on Overseas Employment Agencies, agencies must provide lectures on the laws and political structures of host countries, but Yang said the agency seldom notified recruits about these factors.

"They give out a handbook, which contains details about dress codes and safety notices," he said. "We were told not to fight or to get drunk in public places, but nobody told us about our rights, nor how to hold a protest march."

"Every country has a different legal system and very few professionals study overseas labor laws, and so it's not practical to expect training centers to find qualified legal experts," said Cheng Yanyuan, professor of labor relations at Renmin University of China. "Unlike China, many countries have specific laws on strikes."

In Singapore, public transport services, such as those provided by the transit company, are listed as "essential services" under the Criminal Law Act. Workers in these essential services, such as public transport, are forbidden from taking industrial action unless they provide their employer with 14 days' notice of any intended action and comply with all other requirements.

In China, workers often go on strike without informing their employer, according to Cheng. "In their minds, their demands will be met as long as a large group of people take part in a strike or protest. That forces the employer to compromise."

"Chinese workers should ensure they gain accurate information about other countries' laws, by consulting local lawyers if they can afford it," she suggested. "If they have no idea about local labor laws, they may take radical action and go on strike. That's because they believe that 'the treatment was extremely lopsided' and that problems can be solved if a large number of workers protest together, like in China."

New system urged

"The importation of labor has been more strictly controlled since 2010 and fewer people are allowed to work in Singapore because of rising unemployment among the locals," said Yang Wu. Some experts have called for a new system to be established to monitor the overseas employment of Chinese workers.

Zhang Hong, professor of law and political science at Nanjing University of Technology, said the Philippines, a country that's provided more than 7 million overseas workers, might be a good model to follow.

The Philippines has established a system to help overseas Filipino workers. As early as 1991, the Philippine Labor Code Provision on Overseas Employment was enacted to monitor overseas employment of its citizens. Four years later, the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act was passed.

In accordance with these laws, the Philippine government has established human resource centers in countries that have more than 20,000 Filipino workers. The centers are open 24 hours a day, and offer consultation and legal services. In addition, the government provides legal aid to its citizens working overseas.

By comparison, two laws passed in 2002 govern the overseas employment of Chinese citizens, including the Provisions on Overseas Employment Agencies. "There is no specific government institution to handle overseas employment," said Zhang.

"China should also establish centers to advise citizens working overseas if they are facing problems and potentially inequitable treatment, rather than adopting an inappropriate way of 'fighting back'," wrote Zhang in an academic journal last year.

"When Chinese workers are living in a foreign land, their mother country should be their strongest supporter and they would certainly turn to service centers for help," said Zhen with Jianghai.

Zhang Yuchen and Li Lianxing contributed to this story.

Contact the reporters at and

Previous Page 1 2 3 Next Page