China tells Japan wage demands "understandable"


Reuters | Aug 28, 2010 | 11:00pm IST

China says it is understandable for its workers to demand higher wages after foregoing pay increases during the worst of the economic crisis, a Japanese official said after talks with Chinese counterparts. A wave of strikes in China has hit Japanese companies and their suppliers in particular in recent months. The issue was raised in a meeting between senior officials from both countries in Beijing on Saturday, Japanese Foreign Ministry spokesman Satoru Satoh told a news conference. Chinese officials, Satoh said, suggested that, whatever view Beijing took of the strikes, it saw rising wage demands as unavoidable as low-paid migrant workers seek to gain ground in the growing economy.

"The Chinese side responded by explaining that the request for increasing wages by workers is understandable," Satoh said, summarising the talks, led on the Chinese side by Vice Premier Wang Qishan. The Chinese officials said workers had held back on wage expectations during the worst of the financial crisis that rippled across the globe from 2008, Satoh said. Beijing has been lifting minimum-wage levels across the country as it tries to boost domestic consumption to make it a driver of economic growth, and ease China’s reliance on exports. The Japanese spokesman said the wave of strikes, which he said affected more than 100 companies, raised questions about labour laws and industrial relations rules that his government would pursue in subsequent talks.

The disputes and wild-cat strikes were concentrated in southern China, which produces many of the country’s exports. It hit mostly foreign-owned factories, including suppliers to Honda Motor Company and its bigger rival Toyota. The strikers mostly belonged to China’s 150 million strong migrant labour workforces, which flows from villages to cities and industrial regions looking for work. Chinese law neither explicitly bans nor allows strikes. Beijing put aside its usual wariness of social unrest and did not crack down harshly on much of the recent industrial action.

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