China looks to roll back worker-friendly policies as growth slows: WSJ

© Reuters. A Chinese worker collects tin plates at a plant on the outskirts of Shanghai© Reuters. A Chinese worker collects tin plates at a plant on the outskirts of Shanghai

BEIJING (Reuters) – China is considering reversing some of its generous worker-protection measures to support companies as the economy slows, the Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday, citing sources familiar with the process.

The country’s labor ministry is consulting with academics, lawyers and businesses on how to add more flexibility to the labor market as China looks to lessen burdens on companies struggling with slowing growth, WSJ said.

Company executives, especially at foreign or private firms, have long been critical of labor contract legislation and minimum wage laws that make it difficult for owners of an ailing business to turn it around or find willing buyers.

Policymakers anxious to modernize China’s slowing economy and slash overcapacity in heavy industry have been making similar noises this year.

The Journal said China’s parliament has urged the labor ministry to speed up a review and propose amendments to the labor law, with the process “expected to stretch well into 2017”.

Many local governments have already taken steps to curb increases in the minimum wage. Guangdong province said in March it would scrap scheduled rises to the local minimum wage in 2016, and keep it at 2015 levels – slightly over 1,500 yuan ($ 230) per month – through 2018.

China’s labor law dates to 2008, when China had a reputation for sweatshops staffed by underpaid workers, but some now say that labor protections hamper much-needed economic adjustments that will benefit workers in the long run.

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