Under 16 and working 16 hours a day ... Chinese clothes factories import cheap child labour from across China

Children forced to work 28 days a month, don’t get paid until end of year and are beaten when they misbehave

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 22 November, 2016, 2:19pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 22 November, 2016, 2:57pm

Clothing factories in eastern China’s apparel-making hub are using child labour from remote areas of the country to reduce costs.

A large portion of the more than 1,000 apparel manufacturers in Changshu, Jiangsu province, have been using cheap labour from Yunnan province with the help of local agents, and some of the workers are under 16, the Chuncheng Evening News reported.

Chinese law defines an employee under the age of 16 as a child labourer.

The agents help factories find cheap workers and earn a finder’s commission. The workers, mostly from Yunnan, earn a monthly salary of between 1,000 and 2,000 yuan (HK$1,125 to HK$2,250), while local workers in Jiangsu often ask for nearly 3,000 yuan a month, a factory owner was quoted as saying.

He said about 6,000 workers were brought to Changshu from Yunnan last year solely via his connections.

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Another factory owner said one of his workers who is aged 16 has been working for him for the past three years. A third owner said in a factory with 20 workers, five to six would be younger than 16.

One 15-year-old worker from Wenshan, Yunnan, was quoted as saying he works at least 28 days a month, starting work each day at 7.30am and never finishing before 10pm.

The boss beats him if he “misbehaves”, he said, adding that he and his co-workers don’t get paid until the end of the year, and will not be paid at all if they leave before then.