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In socialist China, workers' real wages were 35 per cent higher in 1970 than in 1952 and workers had better food, housing, medical care, education and training opportunities than ever before. From the 1950s to the 1980s, 94 per cent of city workers were covered by free medical care.
Now, with the return of capitalism, "the new generation of workers ... unambiguously confront domination by the capitalist class." Capitalism brought privatisation, which brought corruption, as officials, cadres and managers stole and sold public goods. Capitalism also brought layoffs, land thefts, non-payment of wages and pensions, and longer hours.
There were 27 million unemployed in 2002, up from under 7 million in 1993. In 2006, fewer than 30 per cent of unemployed men and 25 per cent of unemployed women got unemployment benefits. In 2000, the state forcibly took the land of 40 million villagers, leaving them without land, jobs or social security.
In 2000, 14 million workers in China's state and collective enterprises were owed wages, up from 2.6 million in 1993. In 1996-2001, in Shenyang, 26.4 per cent of retired workers were owed pensions. 100 million (internal) migrant workers made up 57.5 per cent of China's industrial working class: 75 per cent of them had been owed wages. In Guangdong in 2001, 80 per cent of migrant workers worked more than 10 hours a day, most for between 12 and 14 hours.
As Lee concludes, "Overall, the uneven transition of welfare from a work-unit-based entitlement to a universal human right has led to a general deterioration of workers' livelihoods, especially in the 1990s." Lee writes of workers' `powerlessness'; not so - workers always have the power, if they choose to use it.
Against the Law: Labor Protests in China's Rustbelt and Sunbelt Overview
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