China hikes minimum wages as labour woes mount: state media
Fri, Jun 04, 2010

BEIJING - China has launched a round of minimum wage hikes to address the nation's widening income gap, following growing labour disputes and a string of worker suicides, state media said Friday.

Beijing said the minimum monthly salary in the capital will be raised 20 percent to 960 yuan (141 dollars) from July 1, the Global Times reported.

The hike is about double the average annual increase of 10.02 percent since the city introduced a minimum wage system in 1994, the newspaper said.

Beijing is one of around 30 provinces and municipalities across China that have raised or will increase their minimum wages this year, the report said, citing government figures.

After recent hikes, Shanghai now has the highest minimum salary in the country at 1,120 yuan a month, according to the paper.

This year's hikes come amid an emotionally charged debate over China's fast economic growth and its poorly paid labourers sparked by a spate of suicides by frustrated factory workers in the south.

Ten workers at Taiwanese high tech firm Foxconn's giant plant in Shenzhen have fallen to their deaths in this year. An 11th worker died at another factory in northern China.

Separately, workers at Honda's China auto parts factory walked out last week seeking a pay rise, bringing vehicle production at the Japanese carmaker's joint ventures in the country to a halt until Friday.

The incidents have raised questions about working conditions for the millions of employees in China's factories, sparking calls for better oversight from those who benefit from the cheap labour.

Official figures show that the proportion of wages to China's economic growth had been decreasing for 22 years, the Global Times reported.

It fell to 36.7 percent in 2005 after peaking at 56.5 percent in 1983 and has not improved much in recent years, it said.

In a circular published this week, the State Council, or cabinet, said it would prioritise raising employees' incomes on its policy agenda this year, pledging to "optimise national income distribution and improve the proportion of residents' income" in the economy.


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