Recently, some western think tanks have published reports saying that forced labor is a widespread phenomenon in Xinjiang, and some western politicians are also clamoring for “the use of forced labor in Xinjiang.” So is there the alleged forced labor? With this question in mind, the Xinjiang Development Research Center invited relevant experts and scholars to investigate the employment situation of ethnic minorities of Xinjiang.
The investigation team made field visits to more than 70 enterprises, rural labor cooperatives and individual business start-ups in Ili, Karamay, Shihezi, Kashgar, Hotan, Kizilsu and Aksu in Xinjiang as well as cities outside the region like Beijing and Tianjin. They held talks and interviewed more than 800 company managers, employees, the self-employed and ethnic minority employees, and studied 26 government documents issued since 2016 and 48 related academic papers published since 2005. Through comprehensive analysis, the team has concluded that the governments at all levels and the relevant enterprises in Xinjiang and other provinces or cities have actively helped Xinjiang’s ethnic minority groups find jobs and fully safeguarded their basic rights such as the labor right and the right to development. People of all ethnic groups voluntarily work, choose jobs and start their own business, and thus the so-called forced labor doesn’t exist at all. The claims of some western think tanks are false, and their relevant arguments and bases are unscientific.
1. Analysis of the Employment Aspirations of Ethnic Minorities in Xinjiang
There are three ways of employment for ethnic minorities in Xinjiang: local employment nearby their homes, employment within Xinjiang, and employment in inland cities in China. The investigation found that the employment of minority people are obviously voluntary, independent and free.
1)The Minority People Have a Strong Desire to Go out for Employment.
By holding informal discussion with Department of Human Resources and Social Security of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, the investigation team learned that various industries in the four prefectures of southern Xinjiang have developed rapidly, but they still cannot satisfy the local people’s needs for employment. More and more urban and rural surplus laborers in southern Xinjiang have turned their eyes to cities in northern Xinjiang and comparatively developed cities in inland China with higher wages, more comfortable living conditions and better working environment. A research by the Department of Human Resources and Social Security on the employment intentions of ethnic minorities in the four prefectures in Southern Xinjiang showed that the willingness of urban and rural surplus labor force to go out for employment is very strong. For example, Aybagh Village in Kashgar Prefecture’s Gulbagh Town has a population of 3,540, among whom 1,509 are laborers, and 1,288 of them are willing to go out for employment, accounting for 85% of the total labor force of the village. The three villages in Baghchi Town, Hotan County, Hotan Prefecture have a total population of 5,307 people, among whom 1,699 are laborers, and 1,493 people of them are willing to go out for employment, accounting for 88% of the total labor force. That means, 86.5% of the labor force in the four villages are willing to work outside their hometown, which indicates that the ethnic minorities have a strong willingness of voluntarily going out for jobs.
The demonstration effect of various measures taken by the governments to promote employment and increase income has stimulated the enthusiasm of ethnic minorities in Southern Xinjiang to go out for employment. Some of them take the initiative to inquire about recruitment information at job market; some ask their relatives working in other provinces or fellow villagers to help them find jobs. Pashagul Keram from Wuqia County, Kizilsu Kirgiz Autonomous Prefecture, has worked in Dongguan, Guangdong Province for many years. She has not only made herself better-off, but also influenced nearly 600 fellow villagers to go out to work. Aymigul, a farmer from Makit County in Kashgar Prefecture, volunteered to go out to work, and helped her family get rid of poverty. “I hope I can start my own business in my hometown one day,” she said. In 2015, a young Kazakh couple Tursun Ali and Aygulsen Jamik were introduced by the husband’s cousin to work in a cotton mill in Shihezi of northern Xinjiang. Deleting their monthly expenses of about 500 yuan, the couple can earn nearly 10,000 yuan of net income. After three years, they used their savings to buy an apartment of more than 100 square meters in Yining city with a down payment of more than 300,000 yuan and a loan of 200,000 yuan. They also introduced more than 10 fellow villagers to work in their company.
The ethnic minorities’ desire of going out for employment is also reflected in other relevant research results. In recent years, many experts and scholars in the team have studied the employment situation of ethnic minority groups in Beijing, Tianjin, Wuhan, Nanjing, Dongguan, Xi’an and other cities. It is generally acknowledged that the ethnic minority people are free to make their own choice about going out to work. They voluntarily decide on whether or not to go out for job, independently decide where to work and freely choose what kind of job they want. Some researchers believe that ethnic minorities from places with harsh natural environment and low level economic development have an even stronger desire to shake off poverty by making a living in cities. One study described the eagerness of Xinjiang’s ethnic minorities to work in Chinese inland cities since 2009: witnessing others’ success of making money, Xinjiang’s rural minority people, who used to prefer to stay at home and live in poverty, are now rushing to inland cities to realize their dream of becoming better-off.
Furthermore, in the relevant academic literature, the investigation team has not find any words or expressions similar to “forced labor”.
2)The Minority People Hope That the Government Will Do More to Help Them Find Jobs.
Over a past period of time, the jobs that the ethnic minorities in Xinjiang found on their own were usually of low quality, low income and low stability. Therefore, the ethnic minorities have hoped that the government would actively organize and help them obtain employment.
In the interviews and exchanges with ethnic minority people, the investigation team deeply felt their high expectations for the government to help them ensure employment. In a questionnaire survey of 100 ethnic minority farmers in Kashgar and Hotan prefectures, the vast majority of the respondents expressed that they wanted the government to organize them to work. “It is not easy for us to find jobs by ourselves, so we hope the government can help us find jobs and train us for the jobs,”said Tashi Memet, a farmer from Yingawat Township in Shule County, Kashgar Prefecture. “The government can help us find stable jobs with high pay. The jobs we find on our own are not stable,” said Awagul Abulajan, a farmer from the same township. Muhtar Helili, a farmer from Puchakechi Township, Moyu County, Hotan, liked welding. He hoped to join a welding training session organized by the government and to find a job in inland China with the help of the government. Erkin Ublikasim, a farmer from the same township, has two sons working for a company in Nanjing with the help of the government.”My two sons make more money in Nanjing than in our hometown. They send money home every month. We are out of poverty now, and I hope the government can organize more people to go out to work,”he said.
The ethnic minority groups’ aspiration for the government to organize them to go out to work has also been confirmed in the relevant research results, which have all concluded that it is very necessary for the government to guide the minority people to go out for employment. Some researchers believe that the government should play a leading role in creating a safer and wider platform for rural surplus labor force to go out for employment, and in improving the public employment service system for ethnic minority people, such as public employment service agencies, labor and social security institutions, and service and management workstations for migrant workers and business owners, etc., thus forming a “four-in-one” governmental assistance mode of training, employment, service and rights protection for those going out to work. Other researchers propose that local governments should be responsible for organizing large-scale labor service export and create more job opportunities for rural ethnic minority migrant workers.
These proposals clearly indicate that the minority people hope to establish a government-led employment mechanism, which can organize them in pre-job training and ensure their smooth transfer of labor, competence for the work and capability to settle down in a new place.
2. The Government’s Efforts in Promoting the Employment of Ethnic Minorities
In recent years, governments at all levels in Xinjiang have attached great importance to employment, implemented the employment priority policy, and spared no efforts in expanding employment, so as to help the minority people achieve full employment.
1) Attaching Great Importance to the Employment of Ethnic Minorities
The investigation team learned that governments at different levels, ranging from the regional government to town/township-level government, have all established their leading group for employment to coordinate employment-related issues. An analysis on the regional top officials’ speeches, government work reports, work plans and summaries in recent years reveals that “attaching importance to employment”, “expanding employment”, “stabilizing employment” and “rural surplus labor force going out for employment” are high-frequency expressions. For example, it was put forward at the Ninth Regional Congress of CPC Xinjiang Committee that the employment target in “the 13th Five-Year Plan” was “to create over 2.2 million new urban jobs and over 13 million jobs for rural surplus laborers, and provide dynamic assistance to ensure at least one person in an urban family is employed.” By analyzing the annual work reports of Xinjiang Government in recent years, the team also found paragraphs exclusively dedicated to arrangement on employment. In addition, the regional government has also made a series of special plans on employment. To name just a few, the Autonomous Regional Three-Year Plan on Facilitating Urban and Rural Surplus Laborers in Kashgar and Hotan Prefectures to Go out for Employment (2017-2019), the Three-Year Plan on Poverty Alleviation through Employment for Extremely Poor Areas in the Four Prefectures of Southern Xinjiang (2018-2020), the Plan on Promoting Training for Poverty Alleviation through Employment for Extremely Poor Areas in the Four Prefectures of Southern Xinjiang (2018-2020), and the Autonomous Regional Three-Year Action Plan on Tourism Industry-driven Employment (2018-2020). Since 2018, the Notice on Poverty Alleviation through Employment in Extremely Poor Areas in the Four Prefectures of Southern Xinjiang has been issued for three years in succession. Following the autonomous regional CPC Committee and government’plans on employment, the Party committees and governments at prefectural, city and county-level have also formulated and issued their own special work plans on employment based on local realities. Since 2018, Xinjiang has held a number of conferences on employment of its southern four prefectures. In 2018 alone, Xinjiang has successively held the “teleconference on transferred employment and poverty alleviation through employment of rural surplus labor force”, the “teleconference on poverty alleviation through employment in extremely poor areas” and the ” teleconference on rural surplus laborers’ transferred employment and tourism industry-driven employment” in the four prefectures of Southern Xinjiang, which made special arrangment on the employment in the four prefectures. All these have provided strong policy support and institutional guarantee for promoting the employment of the local ethnic minorities.
2) Establishment and Strict Implementation of the Laws and Regulations for Employment and Labor Rights Protection
According to the Chinese Constitution, the Labor Law, the Employment Promotion Law, and the Labor Contract Law, Xinjiang has formulated and promulgated a series of autonomous regional laws, regulations and normative opinions, such as the Measures for Implementing the National Employment Promotion Law, the Measures for Labor and Social Security Supervision Regulations, the Regulations on Protection of Employees’Rights and Interests, Regulations on Labor Dispatch, the Regulations on Collective Wage Consultation of Enterprises, the Trial Management Measures for Economic Layoffs in Enterprises, the Guiding Opinions on Standardizing Management of Labor Contracts, the Implementation Opinions on Building Harmonious Labor Relations, and the Guiding Opinions on Further Strengthening and Standardizing Management of Dispatched Laborers. These laws and regulations have clarified the essential labor rights and protection measures for workers of all ethnic groups, thus ensuring a legal basis for employment and labor rights protection in Xinjiang.
3) Respect for the Ethnic Minorities’ Employment Intentions
The investigation team learned that ethnic minority people’s voluntariness has always been the premise for the local government to organize them to go out to work. The government solicits in advance their employment preferences concerning their desired region, industry, type of work and post, and training needs. Pre-job training on the required occupational skills for specific posts are provided after the people voluntarily sign up for seeking outside employment. This process is clearly stated and emphasized in government documents. For example, the Autonomous Regional Three-Year Plan on Facilitating Urban and Rural Surplus Laborers in Kashgar and Hotan Prefectures to Go out for Employment (2017-2019) points out that “urban and rural surplus labor force aged 18 to 45, who have the intention to go out to work, can be recruited with agreement of human resource and social secuty department…” The Three-Year Plan on Poverty Alleviation through Employment for Extremely Poor Areas in the Four Prefectures of Southern Xinjiang (2018-2020) defines the objects of poverty alleviation as “the labor force with labor ability and desire for employment or entrepreneurship among the registered poor population in the 22 extremely poor counties in the four prefectures of Southern Xinjiang.” The Plan on Promoting Training for Poverty Alleviation through Employment for Extremely Poor Areas in the Four Prefectures of Southern Xinjiang (2018-2020), requires “to take every administrative village as a unit to find out the intentions of laborers from poor families on going out for employment” and “to provide entrepreneurship training for those with desire and conditions to start their own business”. These statements reflect the government’s respect for the employment intentions of ethnic minorities. For those who are unwilling to be employed due to their health or other reasons, their will is fully respected, and they are never forced to sign up for training.
Courtesy: Global Times