Stronger le­gal pro­tec­tion for work­ers can cut over­work deaths


es­ti­mated that 600,000 peo­ple in China die of over­work every year, the most in the world. Bei­jing Youth Daily com­ments:

There have been nu­mer­ous ex­am­ples of peo­ple dy­ing from over­work in China. A typ­i­cal ex­am­ple is a col­league of ours, who of­ten worked till late at night. He fell ill at the be­gin­ning of last year and died after be­ing in a coma for a long time.

The man’s fam­ily re­ceived com­pen­sa­tion from the com­pany, but there is no gov­ern­ment com­pen­sa­tion be­cause his death is not con­sid­ered an in­dus­trial in­jury.

The cur­rent law lists seven kinds of in­dus­trial in­juries, but none of them has any­thing to do with death from over­work.

The law says that those struck by a sud­den ill­ness at work and who die within 48 hours should be con­sid­ered as dy­ing from an in­dus­trial in­jury, but in re­al­ity many peo­ple who die as a re­sult of over­work ex­pire more than 48 hours after fall­ing ill. How­ever, in terms of the law they are not con­sid­ered vic­tims of in­dus­trial in­juries.

It is a sad fact that we have the high­est num­ber of deaths from over­work in the world, but our le­gal pro­tec­tion of work­ers lags far be­hind that of many other coun­tries. That calls for us to re­vise the la­bor law and in­clude death from over­work in the list of in­dus­trial in­juries, so that there is at least some le­gal guar­an­tee for com­pen­sa­tion.

More im­por­tantly, the work­ers’ unions need to play a big­ger role. The La­bor Law says that if com­pa­nies need em­ploy­ees to work ex­tra hours, they need to dis­cuss this with work­ers via the unions. The prob­lem is, sel­dom has any com­pany truly obeyed this and sel­dom do we hear of any unions in­ter­ven­ing to up­hold the right of work­ers.

A sin­gle em­ployee is weak fac­ing his em­ployer and that’s why there are unions. If the unions fail to pro­tect work­ers, that hurts the rights of work­ers. It is time we re­vised the law and re­formed unions so they bet­ter pro­tect em­ploy­ees.

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