Wages are the main source of workers’ livelihoods. Wage growth for workers is closely linked to enterprise development and workers’ living standards. In recent years, the wage levels of Chinese workers have increased rapidly. From 2008 to 2013, workers employed in urban areas enjoyed an annual average wage growth of 9.57%, basically keeping up with the growth in labour productivity.
However, we have to be aware that there are still many problems around wage distribution. Income inequality continues to expand. Some workers, especially rural migrants, still earn low wages. And wage levels in some sectors have stayed lower than in others. The relevance of collective bargaining still needs to be improved to raise wage levels, especially for low-income workers and sectors.
The International Seminar on Sectoral Wage Policies, held on 7-8 August 2014 in Guiyang, Guizhou province, was the first of its kind. Forty participants attended, including experts from the ILO, the ITUC, Renmin University, the Institute for Labour and Wage Studies of the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security (MOHRSS) and the China Optometric and Optical Association (COOA), as well as trade union officers from ACFTU headquarters, ten national industrial unions and eight provincial federations of trade unions.
The two-day seminar focused on three topics: Sectoral Wage Policies and Sectoral Collective Wage Bargaining; International and National Experience-Sharing on Sectoral Wage Policy-Making and Case Studies; and Key Issues in Formulating Sectoral Wage Policies.
Jiao Kaihe, ACFTU Vice-Chair and National Secretary, Tim de Meyer, Director of the ILO Country Office for China and Mongolia, and Yuan Zhou, Chair of the Guizhou Provincial Federation of Trade Unions, addressed the seminar’s opening session.
The Chinese speakers focused their presentations on the sectoral wage situation, sectoral wage policy-making and sectoral collective wage bargaining in China, identifying challenges and good practices for sectoral collective bargaining and exchanging thoughts on the future development of Chinese sectoral collective bargaining. The ILO and ITUC experts introduced the ILO Conventions and Recommendations, along with the practices of other countries on sectoral wage policies and sectoral collective bargaining, which were of particular interest to the Chinese participants. After a thorough discussion on collective bargaining at various levels, participants agreed that collective bargaining is a more effective method of wage determination, and workers’ participation from the start is vital for collective bargaining at all levels.
In his closing remarks, Tim de Meyer observed that the seminar had provided a successful and intensive insight into Chinese complexity. He commended sectoral unions for their immense work in carrying forward sectoral collective bargaining, especially for low-wage workers. It strengthened the ILO’s belief that sectoral bargaining is going to have a bright future in China.