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China Labor Unrest: The Graph.

Posted in China Business

Excellent graph (and site) showing the hot (and cold) spots for labor unrest in China (h/t Shanghaiist). I studied the graph for quite a while trying to determine some lesson for where foreign businesses should locate in China, but have to admit I have no great pearls of wisdom on this point.

Guangdong seems to be the focus of many disputes, but since it is also the location of so many factories, it does not seem all that disproportionate. Shandong Province (Qingdao, Jinan, etc.) also seems to fare particularly well in terms of there having been so few disputes there.

Would love to get some more analysis of this as I have to think there is more to be learned from this map than what just the above.  Any ideas anyone?

  • Andeli

    What I noticed by looking at each individual incident is that some of them were so minor (a strike at a BMW car dealership????) that they probably do not even belong on here or at least if they do, they do not signify much.

  • Sino Man

    Do you have any sense for how accurate this information is? I am guessing there are a number of incidents, particularly in the more remote regions, that never made it the level where the press had to say something.

  • Aaron

    I agree that it is difficult to tell what is the scale of the “protest” required to make it onto this graph.
    Some of the incidents should be more accurately classified as simple “contract disputes”, such as workers simply gathering to demand overdue pays. I don’t think these should be called “labor unrest”, as they are not really about any disputes over labor or employment equity or fairness, as we understand the difference between labor/employment law vs. contract law.
    Also I have seen minor car accidents in Shanghai that draw rather large crowds.
    But overall, it does appear that the incidents are pretty evenly spread out through the population of China.
    “Labor unrest” is rather a difficult subject to understand in general.
    Fundamentally, I think it would be necessary to compare to some historical data of “labor unrests”, as well as data in other countries.
    Regarding business risks, it would be interesting to see some correlation of “labor unrests” to dispute resolutions in US and Europe. What are the proportions of “unrests” that have no real substantive outcome? (just blowing off some steam). Are there other social/economic factors that prompted protests?

  • Shanghai Ty

    Since Guangdong has a labor force of 50 mn to 60 mn people, even 27 incidents doesn’t sound like that much. And the 6 in the Yangtze River Delta sounds almost miraculous.
    In Guangdong, if we assume that each of the 27 disputes involved 1000 workers, that means about 1 in 2000 workers were affected, province-wide. (And, as other commenters have noted, many of these incidents were small-scale or one-day strikes.)
    Either this data is a poor barometer of labor conditions or China really is a workers paradise.