Disposable Bodies and Labor Rights: Workers in China's Automotive Industry

TitleDisposable Bodies and Labor Rights: Workers in China's Automotive Industry
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2014
AuthorsChan, Anita, Chen, Yiu Por, Xie, Yuhua, Wei, Zhao, and Walker, Cathy
Pagination509 - 529
Date Published2014///
Keywordsautomotive assembly, Automotive industry, China, injuries, occupational health and safety, worker safety

This article focuses on the serious occupational health and safety (OHS) injuries affecting the workers of one of China's most important industries—automotive assembly—and particularly the musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) that are common in the industry. The data are drawn from a 2011 survey of 1,100 autoworkers conducted at twelve assembly plants in seven Chinese cities. By correlating injury rates with age, speed of the assembly line, length of work hours, mental pressure, availability of floaters to replace absent workers, ease to take sick leave, etc., the data identify the most salient causes of MSD. The study raises the issue that the state and management's ignoring of MSD and the lack of workers' participation and representation in the plants constituted a violation of labor rights. The article offers some remedies that are applicable both in China and internationally.