Oct 11, 2016
This myth is so widely trafficked, and not just among poorly-informed social media commentators but also among supposedly well-informed academics and highly-respected news organizations, that is some ways it has become an accepted truth.'Of course the Chinese import convicts,' how else can you explain the barbed wire that surrounds construction sites, or the shabby conditions so many of their workers live in and the fact that they often have to work seven days a week?
Well, the reality is that barbed wire is often intended to keep people on OUTside from coming rather than incarcerating those on the INside. While they may not be prisoners, it is fair to say their living conditions are often comparable to those of inmates, which comes as a surprise to many in Africa who often mistakenly assume that all foreigners live the luxurious lifestyle of a white aid worker. As for overtime, well, for many Chinese contractors that is a foreign concept. There is no overtime. You work until the job is done. Period.
Despite the confidence of those who propagate this myth, there is no empirical proof to confirm their suspicions. Scholars from around the world have scoured Africa and Chinese work sites looking for even a sliver of proof that the Chinese are importing forced labor to work in Africa. To date, no one has found any indication that this widely-believed myth is actually true.
While many people mistakenly believe that the Chinese do not hire local employees, new research confirms that the vast majority of workers on these sites, upwards of 90% in Kenya for example, are locally-hired. The instances where Chinese companies use expatriate labor tend to be for either highly-skilled positions or in circumstances where local labor is simply unavailable (such as working in extremely remote areas building rail lines and highways), according to Luo Yating, program manager at the Kenya-based think tank Sino-Africa Centre for Excellence Foundation (SACE).
Yating challenged a number of the prevailing misperceptions about Chinese labor practices in Kenya in a new research paper that she presented at a recent SACE China-Africa conference held in Nairobi. She joins Eric & Cobus to discuss her findings and to explain why the Chinese have such a bad reputation for labor relations in Africa.
Join the discussion? Do you believe the Chinese import convict labor to work in Africa? Do you feel the Chinese get a bad rap? Let us know what you think.