Despite efforts to improve workers' conditions on the mainland, the legal system remains heavily weighted in employers' favour. Monina Wong Ching-man of the Hong Kong Christian Industrial Committee - which is assisting workers involved in the Lucky Gems and Jewelry dispute - said that although standards are improving, people with work-related illnesses are forced to pursue cases through lengthy court proceedings. 'It's unfair,' she said. 'Workers have to shoulder the social cost of their illness, but the factory owner doesn't have to pay a thing during the legal process. They don't care if it drags on for three years.' One of the major problems associated with improving the lot of workers was the fact that China's main advantage in the global market is its position as a low-cost production centre. 'The central and local governments are trying to create a healthy investment environment, and better monitoring of working conditions would push up costs,' she said. 'So there's little incentive for foreign investors to force improvements to working conditions given the pressures of the global market.' But increasing foreign investment in mainland businesses was also helping to raise awareness of occupational health and safety issues. 'The problem is more visible in foreign invested companies because they run a higher risk of being exposed in the international media. 'We're not saying that they should abandon a supplier if they find a factory with bad conditions,' Ms Wong said. 'This isn't a grazing situation. They should commit themselves to helping, or forcing, the factory to improve the situation for workers. 'There's a cost to having the best of both worlds.'