An in-depth report from Reuters explains how China’s youngest generation of laborers are far more demanding than their older peers, on a far larger scale than many of us may realise.
Workers are now organising protests with remarkable efficiency using online social media and this online communication also allows ideas to spread quickly around the country, with copycat strikes popping up.
The prevalence of discontent, and online connectivity, puts the Chinese government in a very tough spot, given that they originally came to power as a worker movement yet are loathe to allow large labour unions for fear of losing political power to them. They have to give in to some extent while being careful not to inflict too much pain on the business sector.
“(This is) a new generation of migrant workers,” said Liu Kaiming, executive director of the Institute of Contemporary Observation, a privately funded group in Shenzhen that focuses on labour issues. “They are more willing to speak out about their grievances and are less tolerant of long hours and tough conditions than the older generation.”
“The rights mentality of younger workers is much stronger than past generations,” said Wen Xiaoyi, a researcher at the China Institute of Industrial Relations in Beijing. “The older workers tell you they feel a sense of loyalty to the company, but they also say that younger workers have a completely different attitude and higher expectations.”
“They really don’t understand what it’s like out here. With their kind of thinking, I’ll never get anywhere and will spend the rest of my life doing useless work in a factory,” said Zhang, whose quiet demeanor, spectacles and wiry frame seemed to make him more at home in a library.
For global manufacturing, if young people are expecting to rapidly climb up the financial ladder and establish a much higher standard of living, it could mean that the days of dirt cheap Chinese labour will come to an end far more rapidly than many expect. Read more here >