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Improving the Non-Governmental System of Outsourcing Labour Regulation in China


  • The initial draft of this article was submitted to the Fifth Workshop for International Young Scholars, on Friday 17 and Saturday 18 November 2006, at the Faculty of Law of Aix-en-Provence. The Workshop was organised by the European Law Journal. Here, special thanks are owned to Professor F. Snyder, Editor-in-Chief of the European Law Journal, and Doctor Xiaohui Liang, Lecturer of Commerce and Human Rights at Peking University Law School.


Abstract:  This article examines, from a legal point of view, the working and functioning of the non-governmental system of outsourcing labour regulation in China. This examination is conducted from two angles. First, by adopting the analytical tool of contemporary international law, in particular human rights law, it is found that generally the outsourcing regulation system possesses its full legitimacy and special value in realising business entities' responsibilities to respect, protect, fulfil and promote labours' fundamental rights and interests. The international community has also set some minimum legal requirements in this regard. Second, reviewed in the context of domestic law and policy, this article identifies that many legal questions arising from the outsourcing of labour regulation in China have been neglected by either the governmental or the non-governmental labour regulation system. Some representative legal issues are illustrated. It is argued that the underlying causes are three pairs of controversies, i.e. the controversy between the ideal standardised model norms vis-à-vis the realistic specified local societal concerns; the controversy between the voluntary nature of the non-governmental norms vis-à-vis the necessity for official authorities' legal guidance and enforcement; and the controversy between the internal interests of the international production chain vis-à-vis the external interests of outer stakeholders. Finally, this article concludes that, on the one hand, the foreign buyer companies and the international non-governmental organisations must not neglect the particular societal concerns and demands in China, and, on the other hand, the Chinese public authorities should promote and direct the development of the non-governmental labour regulation by improving the governance of rule of law as well as policy making and implementation. Some tentative proposals are raised for solution.