The number of worker protests in the southern city of Dongguan in Guangdong province has dropped sharply this year according to the Hong Kong-based NGO China Labour Bulletin. Dongguan used to be a center of manufacturing and saw frequent protests by workers over factory closures, wage arrears and the non-payment of social insurance contributions.
Strikes and protests peaked in 2014 and 2015. In the first nine months of 2015, 23 percent of all protests in Guangdong took place in Dongguan. In the same period this year, the city accounted for only eight percent of all protests in the province. Within China Guangdong is still the province with the highest number of worker protests.
The Dongguan authorities attribute the sharp reduction in protests to a new early warning system to prevent the escalation of disputes through mediation and dialogue. Yet that seems to be just part of the story. Over the past decade, many small and medium-sized companies in low-cost and labor-intensive industries have already moved elsewhere.
In the service sector and in logistics, the overall number of strikes has also dropped significantly. However, delivery drivers and package handlers regularly stage strikes over wages, working hours and delivery times. Data from CLB for the first half of 2017 show that 22 percent of all disputes where in the delivery and service sector followed by protests in manufacturing (21 percent). The highest numbers of strikes and protests is still registered in construction (40 percent).