Working hours cut to let employees 'build socialism'

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 09 February, 1994, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 09 February, 1994, 12:00am

RECENTLY approved regulations on working hours are meant to give people more time for the building of socialism, according to Beijing.

In a joint statement issued yesterday, the Labour and Personnel ministries said the new rules were meant to give Chinese workers ''more time for [political] study, educating their children and taking care of their household chores''.

''[The rules] will definitely further motivate workers' enthusiasm and initiative in the building up of socialism,'' the official Xinhua (New China News Agency) quoted from the statement.

According to the full text of the regulations released yesterday, the changes apply to workers in all government organisations. From next month, work will be limited to eight hours a day and 44 hours a week.

In addition to state-owned enterprises and government units, the regulations would affect foreign-funded enterprises in China, the joint-statement said.

They will cover all sorts of businesses - mining, manufacturing, construction, transportation, forestry, farming, commerce and retail.

All enterprises - including foreign-owned and private companies - will be forbidden to force overtime on their workers unless such overtime work is carried out in accordance with relevant rules.

''[We] must correct those enterprises which have been relying on workers' overtime to meet their orders. If the situation demands overtime work, then it must be carried out in accordance with the relevant regulations,'' the statement says.

Government institutions and enterprises must compensate their staff for overtime work, according to the regulations.

They also state that enterprises cannot cut wages because of the shorter working hours.

However, the regulations include a clause which allows overtime if units believe their work cannot be interrupted during holidays.

Overtime is also permitted for commercial and retail units during their peak business seasons.

The regulations said the Government would punish any violations.

Analysts said it was unclear how the Government could enforce the new regulations, especially where the thousands of Sino-foreign joint ventures in Guangdong and Fujian were concerned.

They said overtime was common practice among these enterprises, and the extra wages from overtime represented a major share of their workers' incomes.

Analysts feared the regulations' lack of clear instructions on overtime might provide another excuse for local labour officials to extort money from companies.

China had approved at least 150,000 foreign-funded enterprises with contractual investment totalling US$192 billion (HK$1,482 billion) by the end of last September.