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POLICY: Employment Management and Occupational Disease under Chinese Labour Laws
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As China is still in its process of industrial development and economic expansion, the number of people who suffer from occupational diseases is increasing gradually. The professional fields which are considered to be associated with occupational diseases generally include mining, railway and so forth, yet now, many other areas and occupations, as well as corporations, are confronted with such issues. As a consequence, occupational health and safety issues are of course a major problem to China. The fact that China has been experiencing dramatic economic and social changes over the past 30 years makes it stand out in terms of its impact on environmental and occupational health. 
 
The Safe Production Law of P. R. China is seen as the main legislation covering occupational health and safety standards. It attempts to cover the broad range of worker-related issues and legal liabilities accordingly. Therefore, corporations as well as enterprises whose operations involve exposure to highly toxic substances are subject to be licensed by governmental health authorities. In statutory terms, the Chinese workers are seen to have protection in various different spheres. In the more recent years, it has been discovered by various studies and investigations concluding  that occupational health and safety issue is becoming one of the key problems encountered by migrant workers working in the cities of Southern China. The reasons for such a case may include: the lack of education and training improvements, the risks to the workers in terms of suffering from work accidents and occupational disease, a lack of work safety awareness, undeveloped infrastructure, and loopholes in management as well as in strict supervision; all of which has caused a continuing cycle in terms of a high prevalence of occupational disease. Great losses to both lives and assets are brought into consideration. 
 
In consideration of such cases aforesaid and various other similar problems, in May 2002, China promulgated and implemented an occupational disease prevention law (Law of P. R. China on the prevention and Control of Occupational Diseases). The legislation provides that employers are under a statutory requirement to offer information in relation to occupational health and health supervising and protections when considered to be necessary to aid in facilitating the diagnosis and verification of occupational diseases. So far, under relevant Chinese laws and regulations, employees who suffer from occupational diseases are entitled to compensation, and in the meanwhile, the workers who are exposed to the risk of occupational diseases (such as high prevalence of hazards and harm) are entitled to subsidies accordingly. 
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Following the laws being implemented as aforementioned, the new Regulation on Work-Related Injury Insurance came into effect from 1 January, 2011. Comprehensive rules regarding treatment and benefits for occupational diseases became available. This new law is recognised to focus more on refining the system for occupational diseases diagnosis and appraisal. Besides, employers’ responsibilities with respect to their fulfilment of obligations in terms of occupational disease diagnosis and appraisal were further enhanced by the law. Employees are favoured by the legislation since their difficulties in reality are considered to be eased to a certain extent. It is worth posting an example here, in this regulation, the arbitration period for determining employees’ professional history or history of exposure to work-related hazards is shortened from 45 days to 30 days. Therefore, it could be said that corporations are recommended to pay close attention to such measures and provisions offered by the laws and regulations, and to make sufficient and effective updates to their internal occupational diseases prevention and control systems in order to ensure a fine compliance to the law promptly. 
 
When we speak of the measures or steps that ought to be taken by corporations or enterprises regarding occupational health and safety issues in relation to occupational diseases and the corresponding prevention and supervisions measures, the writer desires to draw your attention to the points below in consideration of the Law of P. R. China on the prevention and Control of Occupational Diseases (2011 Amendment) (hereinafter referred to as “the law”):  
 
I. General provisions
 
1. Article 9 
 
It has been provided in the law that the state shall apply an occupational health supervision system. The work safety administrative department, health administrative department, and labour and social security administrative department of the State Council shall, according to the functions prescribed by this law and the State Council, supervise and administer the prevention and control of occupational diseases across the country. These measures make it clearer and more certain that not only are corporations or enterprises subject to pay more attention to the issue, the state itself is offering force and power through statutory means in terms of aiding the running of the system in the meantime. 
 
2. Article 13 
 
This section states that any entity or individual shall have the right to report and make accusations regarding violations of this Law. The relevant departments shall handle such reports and accusations in a timely manner after receipt. Entities and individuals which have made remarkable achievements in the prevention and control of occupational diseases shall be rewarded. Such legislation tends to offer the view that, statutorily, the system of occupational diseases management and prevention is to be maintained and improved through the means of a gathered effort, which means that the state is ready to deal with the various problems involving occupational diseases at any time. 
 
II. Early Prevention 
 
3. Article 15 
 
The law states that the formation of an employer with occupational disease hazards shall meet the requirements of laws and administrative regulations, and the employer’s work sites shall also statutorily meet the various occupational health requirements, including but not limited to: the intensity or density of occupational disease hazard factors meeting the national occupational health standards, available facilities suitable for protection from occupational disease hazards, the production layout being reasonable and conforming to the principle of separating harmful operations from harmless operations, available and easily accessible health facilities including changing rooms, bathrooms, and lounges for pregnant women, equipment, tools, appliances, and other facilities shall meet the requirements for protecting the physical and mental health of employees, and so forth. All of these aforesaid prove the point that employers are now under a even stricter statutory obligation to ensure that employees are away or at least further from occupational disease hazards, which on the other hand shows that the state actually has a sincere attitude to protect employees in such cases. 
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It is never necessary to list out all the provisions in the relevant laws and regulations, the fact that the aforesaid three articles are included here is due to the writer’s insistence that the three pieces of legislation are sufficient enough to show how the law is evolving (or developing if you prefer) in order to improve working conditions for workers facing occupational disease hazards, whist also making sure that corporations and enterprises are thinking better  and offering more to their employees. Indeed, if we can present this point of view from another angle, the better working conditions are for workers, the more efficient the business. 
 
 
However, it is not to be denied that although the laws and regulations are making sufficient efforts to refine the system and scheme of occupational disease hazard supervision and prevention, in practice there are certain realist problems which might be pulling down the implementation and the execution of such desirable measures. For instance, some corporations refuse to adopt certain protective measures during business operations due to the high costs they have to bear; whilst some others who have establishments in less developed cities or regions in China are not even able to equip themselves as the laws require because of poor general facilities in the area and so forth. Therefore, it is important to recognise the effects imposed by the laws. I consider it to be more important to a certain extent to have the relevant corporations or enterprises to take on their shoulders their rightful responsibilities and obligations. Such outcomes will surely aid our state to better flourish in its industrialisation as well as developments in other fields. 

By Simon Bai
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