Investigation Team of the Development Research Center of Xinjiang: An Investigation Report on Employment of Ethnic Minorities in Xinjiang

Recently, some western think tanks have published reports saying that forced labor is a widespread phenomenon in Xinjiang, and some western politicians are also clamoring for “the use of forced labor in Xinjiang.” So is there the alleged forced labor? With this question in mind, the Xinjiang Development Research Center invited relevant experts and scholars to investigate the employment situation of ethnic minorities of Xinjiang.

 

The investigation team made field visits to more than 70 enterprises, rural labor cooperatives, and individual business start-ups in Ili, Karamay, Shihezi, Kashgar, Hotan, Kizilsu, and Aksu in Xinjiang as well as cities outside the region like Beijing and Tianjin. They held talks and interviewed more than 800 company managers, employees, the self-employed and ethnic minority employees, and studied 26 government documents issued since 2016 and 48 related academic papers published since 2005. Through comprehensive analysis, the team has concluded that the governments at all levels and the relevant enterprises in Xinjiang and other provinces or cities have actively helped Xinjiang’s ethnic minority groups find jobs and fully safeguarded their basic rights such as the labor right and the right to development. People of all ethnic groups voluntarily work, choose jobs and start their own business, and thus the so-called forced labor doesn’t exist at all. The claims of some western think tanks are false, and their relevant arguments and bases are unscientific.

 

  1. Analysis of the Employment Aspirations of Ethnic Minorities in Xinjiang

 

There are three ways of employment for ethnic minorities in Xinjiang: local employment near their homes, employment within Xinjiang, and employment in inland cities in China. The investigation found that the employment of minority people is obviously voluntary, independent, and free.

1)The Minority People Have a Strong Desire to Go out for Employment.

By holding an informal discussion with the Department of Human Resources and Social Security of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, the investigation team learned that various industries in the four prefectures of southern Xinjiang have developed rapidly, but they still cannot satisfy the local people’s needs for employment. More and more urban and rural surplus laborers in southern Xinjiang have turned their eyes to cities in northern Xinjiang and comparatively developed cities in inland China with higher wages, more comfortable living conditions, and a better working environment. Research by the Department of Human Resources and Social Security on the employment intentions of ethnic minorities in the four prefectures in Southern Xinjiang showed that the willingness of urban and rural surplus labor force to go out for employment is very strong. For example,  Aybagh Village in Kashgar Prefecture’s Gulbagh Town has a population of 3,540, among whom 1,509 are laborers, and 1,288 of them are willing to go out for employment, accounting for 85% of the total labor force of the village. The three villages in Baghchi Town, Hotan County, Hotan Prefecture have a total population of 5,307 people, among whom 1,699 are laborers, and 1,493 people of them are willing to go out for employment, accounting for 88% of the total labor force. That means, 86.5% of the labor force in the four villages are willing to work outside their hometown, which indicates that the ethnic minorities have a strong willingness to voluntarily going out for jobs.

The demonstration effect of various measures taken by the governments to promote employment and increase income has stimulated the enthusiasm of ethnic minorities in Southern Xinjiang to go out for employment. Some of them take the initiative to inquire about recruitment information at job market; some ask their relatives working in other provinces or fellow villagers to help them find jobs. Pashagul Keram from Wuqia County, Kizilsu Kirgiz Autonomous Prefecture, has worked in Dongguan, Guangdong Province for many years. She has not only made herself better-off but also influenced nearly 600 fellow villagers to go out to work. Aymigul, a farmer from Makit County in Kashgar Prefecture, volunteered to go out to work and helped her family get rid of poverty. “I hope I can start my own business in my hometown one day,” she said. In 2015, a young Kazakh couple Tursun Ali and Aygulsen Jamik were introduced by the husband’s cousin to work in a cotton mill in Shihezi of northern Xinjiang. Deleting their monthly expenses of about 500 yuan, the couple can earn nearly 10,000 yuan of net income. After three years, they used their savings to buy an apartment of more than 100 square meters in Yining city with a down payment of more than 300,000 yuan and a loan of 200,000 yuan. They also introduced more than 10 fellow villagers to work in their company.

The ethnic minorities’ desire of going out for employment is also reflected in other relevant research results. In recent years, many experts and scholars in the team have studied the employment situation of ethnic minority groups in Beijing, Tianjin, Wuhan, Nanjing, Dongguan, Xi’an and other cities. It is generally acknowledged that the ethnic minority people are free to make their own choice about going out to work. They voluntarily decide on whether or not to go out for job, independently decide where to work and freely choose what kind of job they want. Some researchers believe that ethnic minorities from places with harsh natural environment and low level economic development have an even stronger desire to shake off poverty by making a living in cities. One study described the eagerness of Xinjiang’s ethnic minorities to work in Chinese inland cities since 2009: witnessing others’ success of making money, Xinjiang’s rural minority people, who used to prefer to stay at home and live in poverty, are now rushing to inland cities to realize their dream of becoming better-off.

Furthermore, in the relevant academic literature, the investigation team has not find any words or  expressions similar to “forced labor”.

2)The Minority People Hope That the Government Will Do More to Help Them Find Jobs.

Over a past period of time, the jobs that the ethnic minorities in Xinjiang found on their own were usually of low quality, low income and low stability. Therefore, the ethnic minorities have hoped that the government would actively organize and help them obtain employment.

 

In the interviews and exchanges with ethnic minority people, the investigation team deeply felt their high expectations for the government to help them ensure employment. In a questionnaire survey of 100 ethnic minority farmers in Kashgar and Hotan prefectures, the vast majority of the respondents expressed that they wanted the government to organize them to work. “It is not easy for us to find jobs by ourselves, so we hope the government can help us find jobs and train us for the jobs,”said Tashi Memet, a farmer from Yingawat Township in Shule County, Kashgar Prefecture. “The government can help us find stable jobs with high pay. The jobs we find on our own are not stable,” said Awagul Abulajan, a farmer from the same township. Muhtar Helili, a farmer from Puchakechi Township, Moyu County, Hotan, liked welding. He hoped to join a welding training session organized by the government and to find a job in inland China with the help of the government. Erkin Ublikasim, a farmer from the same township, has two sons working for a company in Nanjing with the help of the government.“My two sons make more money in Nanjing than in our hometown. They send money home every month. We are out of poverty now, and I hope the government  can organize more people to go out to work,”he said.

 

The ethnic minority groups’ aspiration for the government to organize them to go out to work has also been confirmed in the relevant research results, which have all concluded that it is very necessary for the government to guide the minority people to go out for employment. Some researchers believe that the government should play a leading role in creating a safer and wider platform for rural surplus labor force to go out for employment, and in improving the public employment service system for ethnic minority people, such as public employment service agencies, labor and social security institutions, and service and management workstations for migrant workers and business owners, etc., thus forming a “four-in-one” governmental assistance mode of training, employment, service and rights protection for those going out to work. Other researchers propose that local governments should be responsible for organizing large-scale labor service export and create more job opportunities for rural ethnic minority migrant workers.

 

These proposals clearly indicate that the minority people hope to establish a government-led employment mechanism, which can organize them in pre-job training and ensure their smooth transfer of labor, competence for the work and capability to settle down in a new place.

 

  1. The Government’s Efforts in Promoting the Employment of Ethnic Minorities

 

In recent years, governments at all levels in Xinjiang have attached great importance to employment, implemented the employment priority policy, and spared no efforts in expanding employment, so as to help the minority people achieve full employment.

1) Attaching Great Importance to the Employment of Ethnic Minorities

The investigation team learned that governments at different levels, ranging from the regional government to town/township-level government, have all established their leading group for employment to coordinate employment-related  issues. An analysis on the regional top officials’ speeches, government work reports, work plans and summaries in recent years reveals that “attaching importance to employment”, “expanding employment”, “stabilizing employment” and “rural surplus labor force going out for employment” are high-frequency expressions. For example, it was put forward at the Ninth Regional Congress of CPC Xinjiang Committee that the employment target in “the 13th Five-Year Plan” was “to create over 2.2 million new urban jobs and over 13 million jobs for rural surplus laborers, and provide dynamic assistance to ensure at least one person in an urban family is employed.” By analyzing the annual work reports of Xinjiang Government in recent years, the team also found paragraphs exclusively dedicated to arrangement on employment. In addition, the regional government has also made a series of special plans on employment. To name just a few, the Autonomous Regional Three-Year Plan on Facilitating Urban and Rural Surplus Laborers in Kashgar and Hotan Prefectures to Go out for Employment (2017-2019), the Three-Year Plan on Poverty Alleviation through Employment for Extremely Poor Areas in the Four Prefectures of Southern Xinjiang (2018-2020), the Plan on Promoting Training for Poverty Alleviation through Employment for Extremely Poor Areas in the Four Prefectures of Southern Xinjiang (2018-2020), and the Autonomous Regional Three-Year Action Plan on Tourism Industry-driven Employment (2018-2020). Since 2018, the Notice on Poverty Alleviation through Employment in Extremely Poor Areas in the Four Prefectures of Southern Xinjiang has been issued for three years in succession. Following the autonomous regional CPC Committee and government’plans on employment, the Party committees and governments at prefectural, city and county-level have also formulated and issued their own special work plans on employment based on local realities. Since 2018, Xinjiang has held a number of conferences on employment of its southern four prefectures. In 2018 alone, Xinjiang has successively held the “teleconference on transferred employment and poverty alleviation through employment of rural surplus labor force”, the “teleconference on poverty alleviation through employment in extremely poor areas” and the ” teleconference on rural surplus laborers’ transferred employment and tourism industry-driven employment” in the four prefectures of Southern Xinjiang, which made special arrangment on the employment in the four prefectures. All these have provided strong policy support and institutional guarantee for promoting the employment of the local ethnic minorities.

2) Establishment and Strict Implementation of the Laws and Regulations for Employment and Labor Rights Protection

According to the Chinese Constitution, the Labor Law, the Employment Promotion Law, and the Labor Contract Law, Xinjiang has formulated and promulgated a series of autonomous regional laws, regulations and normative opinions, such as the Measures for Implementing the National Employment Promotion Law, the Measures for Labor and Social Security Supervision Regulations, the Regulations on Protection of Employees’Rights and Interests, Regulations on Labor Dispatch, the Regulations on Collective Wage Consultation of Enterprises, the Trial Management Measures for Economic Layoffs in Enterprises, the Guiding Opinions on Standardizing Management of Labor Contracts, the Implementation Opinions on Building Harmonious Labor Relations, and the Guiding Opinions on Further Strengthening and Standardizing Management of Dispatched Laborers. These laws and regulations have clarified the essential labor rights and protection measures for workers of all ethnic groups, thus ensuring a legal basis for employment and labor rights protection in Xinjiang.

3) Respect for the Ethnic Minorities’ Employment Intentions

The investigation team learned that ethnic minority people’s voluntariness has always been the premise for the local government to organize them to go out to work. The government solicits in advance their employment preferences concerning their desired region, industry, type of work and post, and training needs. Pre-job training on the required occupational skills for specific posts are provided after the people voluntarily sign up for seeking outside employment. This process is clearly stated and emphasized in government documents. For example, the Autonomous Regional Three-Year Plan on Facilitating Urban and Rural Surplus Laborers in Kashgar and Hotan Prefectures to Go out for Employment (2017-2019) points out that “urban and rural surplus labor force aged 18 to 45, who have the intention to go out to work, can be recruited with agreement of human resource and social secuty department…” The Three-Year Plan on Poverty Alleviation through Employment for Extremely Poor Areas in the Four Prefectures of Southern Xinjiang (2018-2020) defines the objects of poverty alleviation as “the labor force with labor ability and desire for employment or entrepreneurship among the registered poor population in the 22 extremely poor counties in the four prefectures of Southern Xinjiang.” The Plan on Promoting Training for Poverty Alleviation through Employment for Extremely Poor Areas in the Four Prefectures of Southern Xinjiang (2018-2020), requires “to take every administrative village as a unit to find out the intentions of laborers from poor families on going out for employment” and “to provide entrepreneurship training for those with desire and conditions to start their own business”. These statements reflect the government’s respect for the employment intentions of ethnic minorities. For those who are unwilling to be employed due to their health or other reasons, their will is fully respected, and they are never forced to sign up for training.

4) Service-oriented Organization of Employment

Xinjiang has established an organizational mechanism for employment and job security. Through the practice and exploration in recent years, Xinjiang has built a complete, scientific, standardized and efficient employment system and mechanism, and formed a closely linked one-stop service system  from post information collection to training and taking up a job.

The procedures for organizing employment have been standardized. The procedures of government organized employment for people of all ethnic groups include: first, the recruiting enterprises provide information on the vacant posts and the number of employees they need; second, the human resources and social security departments publish the recruitment information through the Internet and human resource market after summarizing all the job information; third, the village/community Party committee publishes the recruitment information on the village/community bulletin board; fourth, the village/community Party committee officials go to the families of the unemployed to learn about their employment intentions and inform them of the job information; and fifth, the people voluntarily sign up for vocational training and took up their posts after passing the training examination. The one-stop service has provided organizational guarantee for the employment of ethnic minorities.

Vocational training has been strengthened. Every year, the government invests a lot of money in this area. Aksu Prefecture determines the occupation (job type) of training and number of people according to individual willingness and market demand, and focuses on skill training for rural surplus labor force going out for employment and pre-job training for new staff recruited by textile and garment enterprises, which effectively improve the employability of the local labor force. According to statistics, from 2014 to 2019, Xinjiang arranged various skill trainings for 6.957 million people, among whom 2.325 million were from the four prefectures of southern Xinjiang (as shown in Figure 1). The region has also helped foster 379,400 new entrepreneurs, who have offered jobs to 827,400 people, that is, an average of 75,900 people started their businesses every year (as shown in Figure 2).

  1. Ethnic Minorities in Xinjiang Have Been Ensured the Greatest Degree of Decent Work.

In 1999, the International Labor Organization (ILO) put forward the concept of “decent work” for the first time, meaning productive labor, that is, through promoting employment, strengthening social security, safeguarding the basic rights and interests of workers, the government, enterprise organizations and trade unions carry out tri-party consultation and dialogue to ensure that laborers work under the conditons of freedom, justice, safety and dignity. Xinjiang has responded positively to the ILO initiative and made remarkable achievements in promoting decent work for ethnic minorities to the greatest extent .

1)Those Going Outside to Work Get Relatively Higher Income.

According to Xinjiang Regional Bureau of Statistics, in 2019, the minimum monthly wage in Xinjiang ranged from 1,460 yuan to 1,820 yuan in four grades, but through going outside to work, many people’s actual income was much higher than this standard. For example, Abduqeyum Abla, a farmer in Muji Township, Pishan County, Hotan Prefecture, saw the recruitment information of a fishery company in Yantai City, Shandong Province, in the bulletin board of the village Party committee, and took the initiative to apply for the job. He earns more than 5,000 yuan a month after taking up the post. Ablimit Matkorban, a farmer in Moyu County, Hotan Prefecture, and his wife, Azgul, have gone to work in Guangdong Province. The couple, who earn more than 8,000 yuan a month, have become “model workers” in their village. Reyhangul Imir, a farmer from a poor household in Ojma Township, Akto County, Kizilsu Kirgiz Autonomous Prefecture in Xinjiang, sent back more than 100,000 yuan to her family in the four years she spent working in Cixi City, Zhejiang Province. With the money, her family has built a new house and bought new furniture. The family conditions have improved significantly, and the home environment has been completely changed. Habibulla Mamut from Aksu City applied for and got a job with an electrical appliance company in Hangzhou, and earned an annual income of about 55,000 yuan, lifting himself out of poverty in just one year. The investigation team learned in Huangdi Township of Shache (Yarkant) County, Kashgar Prefecture, that Miradil Memet and his wife, having read the recruitment information from the town’s labor and social security office, felt that the jobs were suitable for themselves, so they applied for the cleaning jobs with a property management company in Karamay City. The couple told the investigation team that they are happy with their current jobs which offer free board and loging, and that they earn more than 6,000 yuan per month, far more than farming at home. Maryam, a farmer in the Xiahuangdi Village of Ahya Town, Wushi County in Aksu Prefecture, came to Aksu City three years ago after a friend introduced her to a textile company here, and is now a skilled worker.“I get a fixed salary of 3,000 yuan a month, and the factory provides free meals and accommodation,”she said.  Elyas Memet, a 21-year-old young man from Kizilsu Kirgiz Autonomous Prefecture, works for an energy chemical company in Xinjiang and earns 6,000 yuan a month, which is equivalent to his half-year income from farming at home. Many people have built new houses in their hometown, bought cattle and sheep, and whatever they need after making money from working outside their villages. By going out for employment, they have earned far more than they could from farming or idling at home, and started to live a happy life with better conditions.

2)The Ethnic Minorities’Right to Freedom of Religious Belief Is Protected.

The majority of ethnic minorities who go out to work believe in Islam. The government respects and protects their right to freedom of religious belief, and facilitates to meet their normal religious needs. When ethnic minorities go out to work, government officials tell them about the number and location of local mosques. Their religious activities, such as worshiping at the mosque and fasting during Ramadan, have not been interfered by any organization or individual. There are no restrictions on religious activities carried out in accordance with the law. “It’s free to worship here. We can go to the mosque at any time after work, and there has never been any restriction,” said Ahmetjan Omar, who works for a company in Nanjing and goes to a nearby mosque to worship with his ethnic minority co-workers. “We usually go to the mosque after work. We are free on Saturdays and Sundays, and we go there to pray early in the morning,” said his co-worker Memet Yaqup. “When it is Ramadan, we fast, and the boss thinks it’s our right and we have never been interfered in that,” said Iliham Memet, who worked for a company in Mianyang City. “On Lesser Bairam, community workers and our bosses visit us and celebrate the festival with us by having dinner together in the factory halal canteen,” said Muhtar Ibrahim, a co-worker of Iliham. Abdullah Turghun, who has been running a restaurant in Beijing for eight years, closes his restaurant every Ramadan. “Fasting has been my habit for years, and no one has ever banned me from fasting,” he said. The investigation team learned that the religious activities of the Uygur people in Beijing are completely free and that no one has ever interfered. “We do not interfere with them, and the mosques are always open,” said the director of the Dongzhimen Mosque Management Committee, who articulated his respect for the worship of ethnic minorities. All these reflect the unrestricted normal religious activities of ethnic minorities in other places in China.

3) The Ethic Minorities Enjoy a Dignified Life

Halal diet is guaranteed. The investigation team found that the halal catering needs of ethnic minorities in the enterprises in other provinces are guaranteed. The canteens have employed halal catering chefs to ensure the halal food supply. An enterprise in Tianjin has opened a halal canteen for ethnic minority employees, where chefs are recruited from Xinjiang and meals are prepared according to halal eating habits. In the kitchen of an enterprise halal canteen in Nanchang City, the investigation team saw large pieces of lamb and beef piled on the chopping board, and eight Uygur chefs were busy cutting meat and washing dishes. “We went to the grocery market to buy lamb, beef and fresh fruits and vegetables, and we have made menus that are different every day to cook delicious meals for everyone,” said Abdurehman Erkin, a chef from Kashgar’s Shufu County. When the investigation team arrived at a company in Mianyang, it was lunchtime, so they ate together with the ethnic minority workers. The main food included hand-pulled noodles, pilaf, rice, and steamed buns, and the dishes served with noodles were fried lamb with celery, black fungus, green peppers, and tomatoes. The pilaf was served with large pieces of lamb and side dishes. The foods were completely halal. All these demonstrate the local governments’ and enterprises’respect for and protection of the eating habits of ethnic minorities.

 

Those who go out to work are also ensured good living conditions. The investigation team learned that many enterprises provide good accommodation for their employees. Twenty-four enterprises that the team investigated have built employee apartments or rented dormitories for employee accommodation in or nearby the factory. A cotton textile enterprise in Tumushuk City invested hundreds of millions of yuan in building staff apartments equipped with toilets and other facilities. Its employees pay no or just symbolic low fees for accommodation, water, electricity, and most other services. There are also supermarkets, restaurants, barbershops, mobile phone business offices, and other supporting facilities in the neighborhood. The investigation team found in an enterprise in Fuzhou that its ethnic minority staff dormitories are fully equipped with television, air conditioning, washing machines, and all necessary living facilities. In an enterprise in Nanjing, the ethnic minority employees’dormitories are even equipped with refrigerators.

 

The good living conditions enjoyed by ethnic minorities working outside their hometown are also supported by news reports. According to a 2017 news report, 840 people from Lopu County, Hotan Prefecture working in a company in a Chinese inland city, lived in en-suite and fully-equipped dormitories with 24-hour hot water and air conditioning, which were much better than their conditions at home. Another report in 2019 said that ethnic minorities working in an inland company enjoyed free board and lodging. The company had Xinjiang-native chefs, a halal canteen, a dance hall, and a kindergarten. It also provided a couple of employees dormitories with a double bed, wardrobe, desk, and air conditioning. According to another news report in 2019, after coming to work in a chemical company in Xinjiang, Ametjan Mamut, a villager from Bulaksu Township, Shufu County in Kashgar Prefecture, successfully applied for the company’s affordable housing program in Urumqi, while buying a house in Urumqi was unthinkable for a farmer from southern Xinjiang. These reports show that the living conditions of ethnic minorities who go out to work are better than those in their own homes.

 

4) Ethnic Minority Women Emancipated Their Minds through Going out to Work.

Over a past period of time, some ethnic minority women in rural areas of southern Xinjiang were bound by extreme thoughts and traditional ideas, which made them extremely conservative and backward in ideology and unwilling to go out to work. The investigation team learned that through employment, the women’s minds have been unprecedentedly emancipated. Their vision has widened and their enterprising awareness has increased. Some of them have used the skills they learned to start their own businesses, such as tailor shops, dessert shops, beauty salons, working as the“boss”of their shops. Some went to work in nearby or inland enterprises and got their wages on time, becoming the “pillar” of their families. After taking part in skill training, Tunisia Abdullah of Moyu County, Hotan Prefecture, started a tailor shop that provided jobs to 23 women in her village. She often tells those around her, “happy life is not given by others, but created by our own hands.” Aymisha Awut, a farmer from Akto County, works for an electronics company and earns far more than her husband does from farming.“Women can also earn money to support their families and hold up half the sky,” she said. Amina Turghun, a farmer from Makit County in Kashgar Prefecture found her ideas changed a lot after she went out to work.“I never thought that one day I could earn three or four thousand yuan a month, and my two to three months’ salary would exceed my whole family’s income in the previous year. My two younger brothers are still at home, and I’ve been trying to persuade them to come out and see the wonderful world outside and make a difference in their lives,” she said.

 

5) Social Insurance Has Fully Covered Ethnic Minority Workers.

Xinjiang has comprehensively carried out the program of universal participation of social insurance. Taking the rural ethnic minority workers in cities, people with flexible employment and those working in new business forms as the key groups, Xinjiang has actively promoted and guided them to participate in social insurance, so as to achieve full coverage of social insurance for all workers. By the end of 2019, the number of people insured for basic endowment, unemployment and work-related injuries for urban and rural workers in Xinjiang had reached 18.9052 million, with a coverage rate of more than 90%. Abdukrem Osman from Kashgar said that his company pays 1,240 yuan a month for each employee’s social insurance, including 870 yuan borne by the company and 370 yuan borne by the individual. Migrant workers from Xinjiang to companies in inland China have also signed labor contracts in accordance with the law, with a wage guarantee rate of 100%. Xinjiang strictly implements the State Council’s Regulations on Labor and Social Security Supervision. The labor and social security supervision institutions at all levels continue to step up law-enforcement efforts, promptly handle complaints about violations of labor security laws and regulations, rectify and investigate illegal acts of employers that do not cover their employees in social insurance and pay social insurance premiums, thus effectively safeguarding the legitimate rights and interests of ethnic minority workers.

 

The fact that ethnic minorities have achieved decent work to the greatest degree in Xinjiang is an obvious sign of the development and progress of human rights in Xinjiang, and also a remarkable achievement of the Chinese government’s policy on governing Xinjiang. The allegation of some western think tanks that there is large-scale forced labor” in Xinjiang is profoundly untrue, unreasonable and untenable. It is totally a fabricated lie and slander with political purposes and exposes the real face of the think tanks as lackeys of the US and the West in their anti-China plots. Lies will be exposed eventually anyway. No rumor or slander can shake Xinjiang’s determination to promote the greatest degree of decent work for people of all ethnic groups. With the rapid development of China, the hard-working ethnic minorities will surely achieve more adequate and higher quality decent work and show the world the historic achievements of the development and progress of human rights in Xinjiang.

 

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