BEIJING Dec 28 China amended its labor law on
Friday to ensure that workers hired through contracting agents
are offered the same conditions as full employees, a move meant
to tighten a loophole used by many employers to maintain
Contracting agencies have taken off since China implemented
the Labor Contract Law in 2008, which stipulates employers must
pay workers' health insurance and social security benefits and
makes firing very difficult.
"Hiring via labor contracting agents should be arranged only
for temporary, supplementary and backup jobs," the amendment
reads, according to the Xinhua news agency. It takes effect on
July 1, 2013.
Contracted laborers now make up about a third of the
workforce at many Chinese and multinational factories, and in
some cases account for well over half.
Some foreign representative offices, all news bureaus and
most embassies are required to hire Chinese staff through
employment agencies, rather than directly.
Although in theory contracted workers are paid the same,
with benefits supplied by the agencies who are legally their
direct employers, in practice many contracted workers,
especially in manufacturing industries and state-owned
enterprises, do not enjoy benefits and are paid less.
Employment agencies have been set up by local governments
and even by companies themselves to keep an arms-length
relationship with workers. Workers who are underpaid, fired or
suffer injury often find it very difficult to pursue
compensation through agencies.
Korean electronics giant Samsung Electronics Co.
said in November that it would require its 249 supplier
factories in China to cap the number of temporary or contracted
workers at 30 percent of regular full-time employees.
It announced the corrective measure after Chinese labor
activists reported violations of overtime rules and working
conditions as well as under-age workers at Samsung suppliers.
Samsung says its own audit did not find workers under China's
legal working age of 16.
(Reporting By Lucy Hornby; Editing by Nick Macfie)