China’s strict measures to fight Covid epidemic have hit the economy severely. A lot of local governments are turning their blind eyes to employers’ labor violations in an attempt to save the economy.

As the Financial Times reported, dozens of cities and provinces in China have recently announced no penalties for light offenses. These violations include forcing employees to work in dangerous environments for long hours or discriminating against gender and ethnicity in their hiring process.

Officials said that the easing of enforcement by local governments is aimed at helping businesses in hardship. They are struggling to deal with poor business conditions caused by the government’s zero-Covid policy.

In response to the lockdown-afflicted economic damage, China’s State Council, or cabinet, announced measures to increase loans and tax breaks for businesses early this week.

According to the Financial Times, relief for labor violations has taken place across China.

In Jiangsu province, the Department of Human Resources and Social Security announced on April 29 that they would not pursue employers for 16 small crimes. The violations include confiscating workers’ ID cards to make it harder for them to leave the job or forcing applicants to pay a fee to apply for jobs.

The department officials said the move would help stimulate entrepreneurship, improve law enforcement and create a stable, fair, and predictable business environment.

According to Apollo News, Jiangsu Province is not the sole cause. Beijing, Guangdong, Tianjin, Shandong, Wuhan, Shenzhen, and other places have recently also issued a list of administrative penalties for labor violations. These small breaches can be exempted as long as companies correct them in time.

Some people said that the current law enforcement by the local authorities is obviously more inclined to support employers, instead of supporting workers as before.

Dave Liu, an arbitrator in Nanjing city, said that in difficult times, workers sometimes have to make small sacrifices to protect the greater good.”

Liu said: “If a company goes out of business because of excessive regulation, everyone suffers. And the best way to protect employees’ interest is to keep the employer alive.”

Wang Lina is a marketing assistant in Wuhan, Hubei province. She said it was difficult for her to file complaints against her boss about mandatory overtime after local authorities announced a reprieve for employers forcing staff to work additional hours.

Wang said that ordinary workers, not business owners, are bearing the brunt of China’s economic recession.

According to experts, the local governments’ tactic to support employers at the expense of workers could destabilize the society in the long run.

Mary Gallagher is an expert on Chinese labor at the University of Michigan. She said that China’s efforts to revive the economy tend to be pro-business, not pro-worker.

She said: “This could lead to labor unrest when the economy begins to recover.”

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