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27 Oct 2021

Liza Lin, Yifan Wang and Jon Emont, The Wall Street Journal (USA)

Chinese Belt & Road migrant workers paid less than promised and feel exploited, according to labour rights group's survey

"Chinese Workers Say They Are Lured Abroad and Exploited for Belt and Road Jobs", 27 October 2021

[...] Mr. Zhang said he was lured to Indonesia by the promise of a better paying job, but his passport was taken once he got off the plane. He and other workers were asked to sign contracts for lower pay and longer durations than they had been promised. [...] China Labor Watch, a labor rights group based in New York, says experiences like those of Mr. Zhang and his colleagues aren’t uncommon. Based on interviews with around 200 workers in 12 countries and information from a whistleblower in China’s trade ministry who it hasn’t publicly identified, the group estimates that tens of thousands of workers abroad are being paid less than they were promised or exploited in other ways.

China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs didn’t respond to a request for comment. Beijing has acknowledged the existence of illegal and unlicensed labor dispatch practices over the years. In 2012, the Ministry of Commerce issued a new rule aimed at protecting the rights of overseas workers, and in 2016 asked local authorities to step up enforcement of the rule due to continued violations. [...]

The reliance by Chinese companies on labor brought from China instead of local hires has fed resentment in some places. Earlier this year, a large Indonesian labor union criticized the use of unskilled Chinese laborers, saying it cheated local workers out of jobs. Mr. Zhang’s journey began in mid-March, when he saw an advertisement for the Indonesia job in a chat message group for migrant workers. Lured by the promise of a pay bump, he contacted the recruiter who posted the ad and packed a suitcase, reassuring his family that the move would fund a better life, according to his wife, Wang Lan. “When I come back, I’ll buy you a bed,” he told the younger of his two daughters, before boarding a bus in the city of Anyang, in Henan province, to head to the airport, Ms. Wang said. Chinese labor contractors have to obtain a government license before arranging for workers to go overseas. [...]