Child labourers uncovered in Fujian

South China Morning Post, 26 November 2003

Despite Government attempts to halt child labour the issue remains a national problem. The case below, reported in Hong Kong media on 14 November, is simply one case in one province there are hundreds more cases occurring throughout China. The problem of child labour is most marked in coastal regions although one study in 1993 gives an estimate of over 10 million children employed in rural enterprise. According to some reports, Zhejiang and Fujian province are the regions with the largest number of child labourers most of them aged between 13 and 14.

According to the media, seven teenagers from an impoverished village in Hubei Province arrived in Fujian in July 2003 after obtaining employment in the Yuanhong Leather Goods factory in Cangshan. They were escorted from Hubei to Fujian by a fellow villager who also worked at the factory. However, once working, the employer withheld their wage and they were forced to survive on one meal a day. Four of the seven were aged 15 years old or younger.

They contacted a local journalist at the People's Daily to get help, who later reported the case to the Cangshan Labour Bureau who investigated the report and brought the children out of the factory.

By the time they left their jobs in late October, the boys had been paid only 400 Yuan each. However, after the inspectors contacted the factory the management paid the wages due to the boys and bought them train tickets back to their home village. Production at the factory was reportedly suspended for two weeks pending payment of penalties. An official said the penalty for employing child labour was 5,000 Yuan per child per month.

Though the boys were due to leave Cangshan on Wednesday, there was no guarantee they would return home. The labour bureau official himself stressed the problems facing the children once they arrived home, Their families couldn't afford to pay for schooling and they have to make a living.. As with many children in rural areas denied access to a proper education, even if they went home, they're bound to leave again, soon said the official. The lack of education for migrant children in urban areas and for many poor rural residents is a major factor in the continuing existence of child labour and highlights the need for an integrated solution to the problem.