In 2002, a consortium that included the National Committee, The Asia Foundation, and Worldwide Strategies, Inc. was awarded a multi-year contract by the U.S. Department of Labor to run a set of programs to improve Chinese labor laws. The overall goals were to help strengthen the Chinese government’s capacity to develop laws and regulations to implement internationally recognized standards of workers’ rights, to promote greater awareness of labor law among Chinese workers and employers, to strengthen industrial relations, and to improve legal aid services to women and migrant workers. The National Committee’s mandate was to work on legislative and labor inspection issues.

On the legislative front, the Committee focused on two important pieces of legislation: the Regulations on Labor and Social Security Inspection and the Labor Contract Law. The Committee organized a series of workshops at different stages of the drafting process of these two laws, bringing together senior legislative drafters and Chinese and international labor law experts. These were supplemented by study tours to the United States for legislative drafters and other senior labor officials and by labor legislative internships for mid-level labor officials. These information exchanges and technical assistance activities had a timely, positive influence and became part of the process of moving Chinese legislation forward.

On the labor inspection front, the Committee focused its efforts on curriculum and training. Workshops, study tours, curriculum development, and training-of-trainers (ToT) programs updated and upgraded the professional skills and training methodology of labor inspectors from a majority of China’s provinces, strengthening the enforcement capacity of labor authorities.

The consortium worked with the Chinese Ministry of Labor and Social Security and others at the provincial and municipal levels, representative from non-governmental and educational organizations, employer and worker groups, as well as with international experts to implement education, training, and technical assistance activities. The project was designed to build an infrastructure based on best practices that are nationally replicable and sustainable and will be of practical and immediate benefit.

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Project Components

  • May 17-19, 2004
    QingdaoThe purpose of the workshop was to bring top representatives from the Ministry of Labor and Society Security (MOLSS) and the State Council, directors of key provincial and municipal labor inspectorates, and Chinese labor lawyers and academics together with a team of American labor inspection specialists to discuss and comment on the new draft of the labor and social security inspection regulations. The draft regulations, scheduled for passage late 2004, were to provide guidance for the work of labor inspectors throughout China and would, for the very first time at the national level, establish a legal basis for the enforcement of standards in the areas of wage, hour, child labor, employer social insurance pay-in and other (non-safety and health) issues.
  • December 4–18, 2004
    Washington, D.C., Houston and San FranciscoThe second major activity of our multi-year DOL contract brought a group of ten senior Chinese labor inspectors from the central and provincial levels to the United States for a two-week training program. The key objectives were twofold: 1) to give the participants a comprehensive understanding of how the U.S. Wage and Hour laws and regulations are administered and enforced, and more generally how workers’ rights are protected in the United States; and 2) to nurture inspection leaders so that they can continue to play an important role in future project activities. The program included Washington, D.C., Houston and San Francisco and focused on compliance with and enforcement of labor laws/standards; administration and governance; training of labor inspectors/investigators; and enforcement mechanism, tools, and coordination. Most of the meetings took place at the Department of Labor’s Employment Standards Administration’s Wage and Hour Divisions (WHD) – at the headquarters, regional and district levels. In addition, Meetings were held with state labor departments and non-governmental organizations involved in labor standards enforcement. During their stay, the inspectors were provided a comprehensive and fairly in-depth look at how the WHD system enforces and assists compliance with labor standards set by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and other laws. The delegation members also met with representatives from academia (Berkeley Center for Labor Education and Resource) and other non-government organizations (i. e., the International Labor Rights Fund and Solidarity Center) to learn about the role of unions and other non-government sector players in labor standards enforcement.
  • June 6-8, 2005
    BeijingIn conjunction with the work on the draft law, the National Committee and its partners convened the Labor Contract Law Drafting Workshop. The workshop afforded the opportunity for the Chinese drafters of the Labor Contract Law to gather together to assess the status of the draft law (which by then had undergone many different revisions). They also considered the prior written comments made by two international experts on the draft, and exchanged views with the international experts, Chinese scholars and other participants from other agencies.
  • July 9-22, 2005
    Washington, D.C., Michigan, CaliforniaA group of ten senior Chinese officials from the MOLSS, the State Council, the National People’s Congress and several provincial and municipal labor and social security bureaus in China came to the United States for two weeks of training and exchange in July 2005.Most of them had been involved in the drafting of China’s new Labor Contract Law; half of them attended the Labor Contract Law Drafting Workshop in Beijing, including the two key drafters.The program included Washington, D.C., Michigan (Ann Arbor, Lansing and Detroit) and California (San Francisco and Los Angeles), and focused on the legislation, interpretation and enforcement of employment and labor laws and regulations in the United States, with particular attention paid to areas and issues potentially relevant to China’s draft Labor Contract Law. The participants had the opportunity to hear briefings from and exchange views with officials at the DOL, the national Labor Relations Board, the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Services, as well as state labor agencies and legislative committees in Michigan and California. Lectures and discussions were held with experts at academic institutions (law schools at the University of Michigan and UCLA), labor leaders (e.g., President of AFL-CIO Michigan) and public interest advocates from non-governmental organizations (e.g., The Legal Aid Society – Employment Law Center), professionals at employment agencies and attorneys from employment and labor law firms.
  • October 8-November 11, 2005
    Washington, D.C., and SacramentoThe Labor Legislative Training Program brought four Chinese labor officials to the U.S. for month-long study placements at relevant institutions. The purpose was to help the Chinese participants develop an understanding of labor-related laws and regulations and the process by which they are drafted and enacted in the United States. The four-week placement format provided the Chinese participants with more extensive, in-depth training opportunities than would be possible with a two-week study visit. The program began with a weeklong orientation in Washington, D.C., during which the Chinese participants were given an overview of labor-related laws and regulations in the United States and different aspects of the labor legislation and rulemaking process. They also had opportunities to meet with congressional staffers, labor agency and other government officials, as well as academics, NGO representatives, and trade union staff involved with regulatory issues.For the four-week placements, two members of the Chinese delegation were placed at the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency; the other two members of the group were placed at the Institute for Legislative Practice at McGeorge School of Law, University of the Pacific.
  • December 4-6, 2006
    KunmingWe organized our second workshop on the revision of the Draft Labor Contract Law in Kunming in early December 2006, a few weeks ahead of the “second reading” by the NPC. (The “second reading” began on December 24, 2006; the law was expected to win passage after the “third reading,” according to Chinese legislative practice.) The workshop was held in four sessions. The first three focused on the three most controversial and intractable aspects of the draft law: 1) the duration of labor contracts; 2) situations where no written labor contract is concluded; and 3) labor dispatching or temporary work. The fourth session was devoted to other issues of importance.We invited the two international experts who participated in the last workshop – Mr. John Fraser from the United States (a former administrator of the DOL Wage and Hour Division) and Professor Alan Neal from the United Kingdom (chairman of Employment Tribunals and an independent expert for the International Labor Organization). Both have studied the draft law in depth and followed its legislative development over the past year; both also worked with us on the project in the past. We also invited 28 Chinese participants, mostly independent experts and scholars and officials from MOLSS and provincial labor bureaus, but also lawyers representing the interest of employers. Mr. Yan Baoqing, director general of the MOLSS Legal Affairs Department, chaired the workshop.
  • May 17-18, 2007
    ShanghaiIt was felt that three years after the Qingdao workshop, and toward the end of the overall project, was a good time to examine the implementation of the Regulations, share best practices, and explore training and other important topics to meet the future challenges in this area. To that end, a workshop on labor inspection was held in Shanghai, May 17-18, 2007.The workshop brought together senior officials and labor inspectors from 20 provincial and municipal labor inspection teams throughout the country. Also in attendance were senior officials from MOLSS, including the director general of the Department of Legal Affairs, which supervises the work of labor inspection at the national level. Two American experts, four Chinese labor law experts, and an observer from the U.S. Consulate in Shanghai provided comparative perspective and intellectual depth to the discussions. The workshop covered such topics as the development of institutions for labor inspection and the challenges faced by the authorities, relevant legal frameworks and the laws’ implementation, practices of labor law enforcement and case management, and the management and training of labor inspectors. Under each topic, Chinese and American presenters first shared the experiences in their respective countries and/or areas, and then engaged the participants in questions and answers and discussion.
  • July 2006-August 2007
    BeijingEffective protection of workers and their legally mandated rights ultimately rests on the rigorous implementation of laws and regulations by officials and inspectors. Much of China’s labor rule enforcement apparatus was designed to work within the realm of state-owned enterprises; thus, government officials and inspectors are often ill prepared to deal with new issues that have emerged in the rapidly changing Chinese workplace. There is, therefore, a strong need to develop training programs intended to update and upgrade the enforcement capabilities of labor officials and inspectors.Labor inspection has a relatively short history in China. The country adopted its Labor Law only in 1994, and the Regulations on Labor and Social Security Inspection as recently as November 2004. Training of labor inspectors has not been systematic and has relied heavily on outdated methods. Existing training manuals tend to not be user-friendly and are often nothing more than compilations of laws and rules, description of procedures and sample forms. (The United States, in contrast, has 70-plus years of experience developing a labor investigation regime and training labor investigators.) Developing a training curriculum for labor inspectors is thus one of the areas where China could truly benefit from close Sino-American collaboration.After months of work, an interactive “case-based” curriculum was developed. The final version of the training manual runs over 300 pages in the English version and 266 pages in the Chinese version. It includes 26 modules covering such topics as inspection protocols, pre-inspection research, employer and employee interview techniques, record reviews, and case management. Eight scripted role-play videos were produced prior to the training, seven in Flash format, and one in live-action DVD format. Directions for further six role-play exercises were developed for groups of trainee volunteers during the training.A pilot demonstration of the training was conducted July 30-August 10, 2007 in Beijing in two consecutive sessions. Each session lasted four days and was preceded by a full-day preparatory meeting of the three American and four Chinese trainers. Fifty-nine labor inspectors from 22 provinces and four provincial-level municipalities participated in the pilot trainings. As they are expected to become future trainers, the participants were carefully selected based on their inspection experience (a minimum of two years) and training responsibilities.