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Wage levels in China have increased steadily over the last decade. However there are huge disparities between different industries, geographic regions, urban and rural areas, as well as between senior managers and ordinary workers. The minimum wage in China has never been a living wage, and wage arrears remain a serious and widespread problem.
Two film makers document the lives of two rural migrant worker families from central China who are turning their back on the big city. Photo. Yangtze River at Badong by Bernd Thaller.
Major improvements in working conditions and hiring practices will be needed if new, younger workers are to join what is currently a dangerous, insecure and poorly paid profession.
In 2004, China Labour Bulletin investigated the pay and working conditions of migrant women workers in Dongguan, China’s “factory to the world.”  In 2014, Human Rights Watch investigated the pay and working conditions of the predominately women workers in Cambodia’s garment industry: The results were predictably similar. Photo HRW.  
Han Dongfang talks to the family of a labour contractor who killed himself after taking on a construction project that left him millions of yuan in debt and unable to pay his workers. Photo by Autan.
As Lunar New Year Approaches, Migrant Workers Push for Back Wages
China's flagging economy is making it harder for Beijing to mend holes in its pension system for 166 million of the country's migrant workers, a problem that contributed to a doubling in the number of strikes last year.
The image shot around China’s mobile screens like a still of real-life horror movie. A stocky police officer standing over the body of a woman in a purple coat, a police van in the backdrop. Her lifeless face is framed by the officer’s shoes and the cold asphalt. According to witnesses, this was the price she paid for challenging her boss.
A group of scholars from prominent universities in China has published an open letter to China’s President Xi Jinping asking the government to do more to protect the lawful rights of China’s 40 million construction workers.
China’s millions of migrant construction workers are building the country’s new highways, stadiums, shopping malls, and rail lines. They often get little in return—sometimes not even their paychecks.

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