Active Labor Market Policy: Towards a Better Labour Protection?

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China's labour market experiences a massive change in recent years. From early 1980s to late 1990s, this country was reported with an unlimited supply of surplus labour, majorly from the rural regions. While the protests of the state owned enterprises (SOEs) laid-off workers had forced the government to introduce a retraining scheme for the urban citizens in 1990s, active policy to promote employment for the rural-urban migrant workers is minimal. In the recent years, however, this policy direction has experienced a gradual change, due to the pressure from a new phenomenon of 'shortage of labour' (min gong huang), unstable employment relationship and the raising labour cost in China. With the introduction of a number of new regulations, for examples, Labour Contact Law and Employment Promotion Law in 2008 and Social Insurance Law in 20011, the government has increasingly intervened into the labour market.

While all of these new legislations have strengthened the labour protections by guaranteeing workers rights with economic and social rights, its implementations have also created new problems. Labour Contract Law attempts to regulate employment relations and stabilize the labour market by promoting permanent contract, but it also gives loopholes for the employers to use dispatched labour. The Employment Promotion Law urges for local initiative for skill training and job searching service, but it gives rise to a new abuse of the massive usage of student interns for lowering the labour costs. As for the Social Insurance Law, it aims to provide a framework for the social protection for all of the population, essentially covering the migrant workers. However, its enforcement in the local context is still uncertain.

This article, one the one hand, provides a sociological account for the development of the Active Labor Market Policy (ALMP) in China; on the other hand, it provides a critical evaluation for the policy with empirical evidences.

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