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Issue 52 (July 2004)
Xin Zhang and Richard Baum
Civil Society and the Anatomy of a Rural NGO
"People's NGOs" are a relatively new phenomenon in post-reform China. Partially filling the vacuum left by the retreat of the state from providing basic social services and welfare needs, these organizations---numbering over 200,000---are found scattered throughout the Chinese landscape. This report examines one such "people's NGO"---the Sanchuan Development Association in Minhe county, Qinghai Province. Launched by a group of local school teachers, and using the Internet to raise funds from international donors, the SDA has undertaken a program of poverty alleviation, community development, and educational enrichment in a poor, remote rural township in China's far northwest. And it has done so while remaining substantially free from local government control.
Jonathan Unger and Anita Chan
The Internal Politics of an Urban Chinese Work Community: A Case Study of Employee Influence on Decision-making at a State Owned Factory
Based upon in-depth interviewing with several dozen retirees and current employees, this paper examines the corporate ethos of a state owned enterprise in the PRC by way of three episodes involving the privatization of enterprise housing. It shows how, when it was announced in the mid-1990s that a substantial number of new apartments were to be built for subsidized sale to selected employees, pressures emanating from the workforce obliged management to set into play a form of grass-roots democracy to determine the selection criteria. It is described how, in this setting, explicit "moral economy" arguments prevailed. The paper also examines two further episodes at the enterprise involving the privatization of housing---in 1999 and in 2003--04---and shows how the rapidly changing political and economic landscape in China has influenced employee and management behavior.
Legal Mobilization by Trade Unions: The Case of Shanghai
This article examines the role of the official Chinese trade union in providing legal aid to workers involved in labor disputes. It shows that unlike ordinary legal professionals, the union is more than a "third party" that is called upon to intervene in a particular dispute. By using workers' private cases to advocate labor rights in workplaces and to call for more effective law enforcement, the union has turned those individual legal contentions into a form of union action, and therefore made itself relevant in situations of industrial conflict. This constitutes part of a labor struggle in a political system that rules out autonomous, independently organized labor movements. On the other hand, the legal aid provided by the trade union is essentially reactive rather than proactive, aiming to correct the infringements of rights already stipulated in law, rather than pursuing new rights claims that have not been formally recognized by China's political leadership. The union's assistance in law suits seeks to ensure the execution of existing legal codes that have often been ignored, rather than to use the law to push for social and political change.
Kenneth Roberts, Rachel Connelly, Zhenming Xie and Zhenzhen Zheng
Patterns of Temporary Labor Migration of Rural Women from Anhui and Sichuan
The late 1990s have witnessed increasing numbers of rural Chinese women joining the ranks of labor migrants. This paper examines the characteristics of a surveyed sample of women migrants from Anhui and Sichuan provinces, and shows that the common assumption---that almost all such migrants are young single women working in a coastal factory---is no longer valid. Instead, our findings demonstrate that women are migrating both while single and married, with and without their husbands and children. All age cohorts of women are migrating at a higher rate in recent periods, and younger cohorts of women are migrating more than older cohorts in each period.
Lihua Pang, Alan deBrauw and Scott Rozelle
Working Until You Drop: The Elderly of Rural China
The overall goal of our paper is to understand what drives the rural elderly's decisions to work, since in the absence of formal pension plans, work is an important part of their strategy. We examine both formal employment-work on the land, off the land for a wage, and earnings from the household's family-run business-and informal work done in the home, taking care of household chores or tending grandchildren. We discovered that almost all people between 50 and 60, and over two-thirds of those between 60 and 70---or virtually everyone who is in good health---are still engaged in formal labor, mostly in farming, but more than 20 per cent also work off the land. While the care of the elderly by their children remains important and affects the labor supply decisions of the elderly, we find evidence that society's traditional family-based social security system is changing, making the income earned by the elderly increasingly necessary.