ILO and China jointly explore the future of labour law

International Seminar on the Future of Labour Law co-hosted by the ILO Country Office for China and Mongolia and the Chinese Academy of Labour and Social Security on May 25-26, 2019 at Beijing.

News | 27 May 2019
The international conference of the future of labour law
Beijing (ILO News) – The world of work is undergoing rapid and deep changes brought about by technological advances, globalization, demographic shifts and climate change. These trends have brought about changes in the organization of work and production, as well as new business models. The existing labour institutions, which have contributed to ensure fair competition to businesses and decent working conditions to workers, face challenges as many of the new forms of work are outside the purview of the employment relationship, leading to greater protection gaps and income insecurity.

Like other countries, the labour law in China, although relatively new, has been facing challenges in adjusting to the new realities of the world of work. With a digital economy reaching a value of $3.4 trillion dollars in 2017 and accounting for one-third of its national GDP, China becomes the world's largest e-commerce market. The sharing economy has become a significant driver of job creation in the country. According to the 2019 report by the Sharing Economy Research Center of the State Information Center, the sharing economy drew 760 million participants in China in 2018, among which service providers stood at 75 million and the number of employees hired by platforms reached 5.98 million, a 7.1% and 7.5% increase respectively over the previous year. The emerging new models for the organization of work are calling for the development of sound labour market institutions and structures that are resilient enough to carry out their roles effectively throughout the transition.

To respond to this call and as part of the “future of work” centenary initiative, the ILO Country Office for China and Mongolia, the Chinese Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security (MOHRSS) and its research institution, the Chinese Academy of Labour and Social Security (CALSS) have jointly organized a seminar on the future of labour law on May 25-26, 2019 in Beijing, China. The seminar has gathered 60 leading Chinese labour law experts, practitioners, policy makers and social partners as well as international labour law experts from Australia, Canada, the EU, Japan, the UK and the US and had an in-depth exchange on the future of labour law. The discussions have revolved around fundamental questions such as what is the labour law for? What challenges the labour law is facing? And how can it be rendered more effective in order to benefit all workers in need of protection, to promote a more equitable and just society, and to contribute to shaping a renewed social contract for the 21st century?

Mr. Zheng Dongliang, Party Secretary of CALSS and Mr. Lv Yulin, Deputy Director General of International Cooperation Department of MOHRSS, welcomed the ILO’s support in organizing this timely and needed discussion. “The Chinese labour law has been developed in tandem with China’s international cooperation. Knowing about the trends and challenges facing the labour law in other countries is important for China especially given that China stands at the forefront of this wave of technological change,” remarked by DDG Lv and he further called for institutionalization of such useful exchange.

The ILO has been working with the Chinese government and the social partners on a number of important issues. An exchange mechanism as such would provide a new platform for sharing experience, knowledge and reflections on labour law reforms, which would contribute to identifying practical and effective means in China’s current search for policy responses to the platform economy."

Claire Courteille-Mulder, Director of the ILO Country Office for China and Mongolia
Claire Courteille-Mulder, Director of the ILO Country Office for China and Mongolia, noted the rising non-standard forms of employment (NSFE) worldwide and its negative impact on working conditions. She challenged the participants to explore effective means to ensure that NSFE does not mean precarious or informal work and does not become synonymous of unpredictable income or employment insecurity. How to protect those in need of protection has become a common area of work for the ILO and the Chinese government in the face of changing work organization and global supply chains. 

The ILO provides integrated, proactive policy advice on the effects and role of labour law as institutions for effective labour market governance and for the pursuit of a wide range of labour market policy goals within the framework of international labour standards. It pays particular attention to how member States can expand the effective coverage of labour laws in ways that are effective for the promotion of the rule of law and good governance in the field of employment and labour.