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Brazil

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The law provides for freedom of association for all workers (except members of the military, uniformed police, and firefighters), the right with some restrictions to bargain collectively, and the right to strike. The law limits organizing at the enterprise level. By law the armed forces, military police, or firefighters may not strike. In April the Supreme Court ruled against the right of civil police to strike, stating that all public security organs are prohibited from striking, including civil police, military police, federal police, fire brigades, railway police, and highway police. Civil police filed a grievance with the International Labor Organization. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination, including the dismissal of employees who are candidates for, or holders of, union leadership positions, and it requires employers to reinstate workers fired for union activity.

New unions must register with the Ministry of Labor, which accepts the registration unless objections are filed by other unions. The law stipulates certain restrictions, such as “unicidade” (in essence one union per occupational category per city), which limits freedom of association by prohibiting multiple, competing unions of the same professional category in a single geographical area. Unions that represent workers in the same geographical area and professional category may contest registration.

The law stipulates a strike may be ruled “disruptive” by the labor court, and the union may be subjected to legal penalties if the strike violates certain conditions, such as if the union fails to maintain essential services during a strike, notify employers at least 48 hours before the beginning of a walkout, or end a strike after a labor court decision. Employers may not hire substitute workers during a legal strike or fire workers for strike-related activity, provided the strike is not ruled abusive.

The law obliges a union to negotiate on behalf of all registered workers in the professional category and geographical area it represents, regardless of whether an employee pays voluntary membership dues. The law permits the government to reject clauses of collective bargaining agreements that conflict with government policy. Labor Law 13.467 of July includes collective bargaining changes, such as the ability to negotiate remuneration for the commute to and from work, working remotely, and a flexible hours schedule.

Freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining were generally respected. Collective bargaining was widespread in establishments in the private sector. Worker organizations were independent of the government and political parties.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits “slave labor,” defined as “reducing someone to a condition analogous to slavery,” including subjecting someone to forced labor, debt bondage, exhausting work hours, and labor performed in degrading working conditions. On October 13, Minister of Labor Ronaldo Nogueira issued a decree that would narrow the definition of slave labor, set new conditions for labor inspections, and modify rules regarding publication of the “Dirty List.” On October 24, Supreme Court Justice Rosa Weber issued a preliminary stay blocking implementation pending a formal hearing. The decree would greatly tighten the definition of slave labor, no longer considering severely degrading work conditions and excessive work hours as slave labor as long as workers are technically allowed the freedom to leave their job site. The new decree would also politicize and weaken the Dirty List of companies that use slave labor, which was reinstated in March after a three-year legal battle. The Ministry of Labor released an updated Dirty List on October 27 and was working with the attorney general to amend the decree to assure it is in compliance with all federal laws and regulations.

While not all individuals in slave labor, as defined by the country’s law, were victims of human trafficking for the purpose of labor exploitation, many were. The government took a number of actions to enforce the law, although forced labor occurred in a number of states. Violations of forced labor laws are punishable by up to eight years in prison, but this was often not sufficient to deter violations. The law also provides penalties for various crimes related to forced labor, such as illegal recruiting or transporting workers or imposing onerous debt burdens as a condition of employment.

The National Commission to Eradicate Slave Labor coordinated government efforts to combat forced and exploitative labor and provide a forum for input from civil society actors. The commission’s members included representatives from 10 government agencies or ministries–including Human Rights, Justice, Federal Police, Agriculture, Labor, and Environment–and 20 civil society groups. The International Labor Organization was also a member.

The Ministry of Labor’s Mobile Inspection Unit teams conducted impromptu inspections of properties on which forced labor was suspected or reported, using teams composed of labor inspectors, labor prosecutors from the Federal Labor Prosecutor’s Office, and federal police officers. Mobile teams levied fines on landowners who used forced labor and required employers to provide back pay and benefits to workers before returning the workers to their municipalities of origin. Labor inspectors and prosecutors, however, could apply only civil penalties; consequently, many cases were not criminally prosecuted. Workers removed by mobile units were entitled to three months’ salary at the minimum wage.

Forced labor, including forced child labor, occurred in many states in jobs such as clearing forests to provide cattle pastureland, logging, producing charcoal, raising livestock, and other agricultural activities. Forced labor often involved young men drawn from the less-developed northeastern states–Maranhao, Piaui, Tocantins, and Ceara–and the central state of Goias to work in the northern and central-western regions of the country. In addition there were reports of forced labor in the construction industry, also involving young men mainly from the Northeast. News outlets reported cases of forced labor in production of canauba wax in this region. Cases of forced labor were also reported in the garment industry in the city of Sao Paulo; the victims were often from neighboring countries, particularly Bolivia, Peru, and Paraguay, while others came from Haiti, South Korea, and China.

In April civil police and the Public Ministry of Labor rescued 31 workers on the premises of the Chinese multinational company Cofco Agri, the largest rescue of forced laborers in Mato Grosso State since 2009. The ministry fined the company, which manufactures agricultural products, two million reais ($619,000) for failing to provide potable water and subjecting laborers to unhealthy, overcrowded accommodation. Of the 31 rescued laborers, four were from Maranhao State and the remaining 27 from Mato Grosso.

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The minimum working age is 16, and apprenticeships may begin at age 14. The law bars all minors under age 18 from work that constitutes a physical strain or occurs in unhealthy, dangerous, or morally harmful conditions. Hazardous work includes an extensive list of activities within 13 occupational categories, including domestic service, garbage scavenging, and fertilizer production. The law requires parental permission for minors to work as apprentices.

According to the Ministry of Labor, in the last two decades, the number of underage working children declined from eight million to 2.7 million. The cases that remained were the most difficult to identify because they often took place in inaccessible rural areas or within a family home.

The Ministry of Labor is responsible for inspecting worksites to enforce child labor laws. Penalties for violations range from 402 reais to 1,891 reais ($125 to $585), doubling for a second violation and tripling for a third, and were generally enforced; however, observers asserted fines were usually too small to serve as an effective deterrent. Most inspections of children in the workplace were driven by complaints brought by workers, teachers, unions, NGOs, and media. Due to legal restrictions, labor inspectors remained unable to enter private homes and farms, where much of the child labor occurred.

In May a study published by Abrinq Foundation, a Sao Paulo-based entity devoted to the protection of children’s rights, found that 3.3 million children and adolescents (ages five-17) were in a situation of child labor. The Ministry of Labor’s National Committee for the Eradication of Child Labor continued to implement the country’s National Plan to Combat Child Labor and maintained a database on the worst forms of child labor occurring in the country.

Also see the Department of Labor’s Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor at www.dol.gov/ilab/reports/child-labor/findings/. 

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

Labor laws and regulations prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, sex, gender, disability, religion, political opinion, natural origin or citizenship, age, language, and sexual orientation or gender identity. Discrimination against individuals who are HIV positive or suffer from other communicable diseases is also prohibited. The government generally enforced the laws and regulations, although discrimination in employment occurred with respect to Afro-Brazilians, women, persons with disabilities, indigenous persons, and transgender individuals. The Ministry of Labor implemented rules to integrate promotion of racial equality in its programs, including requiring that race be included in data for programs financed by the ministry, including unemployment insurance.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

In January the national minimum wage increased to 937 reais ($290) per month. According to 2016 IBGE data, the per capita income of approximately 40 percent of workers was below the minimum wage. IBGE data also revealed 6.8 percent of workers (12.9 million) were considered “extremely poor” or earning less than 70 reais ($22) per month.

The law limits the workweek to 44 hours and specifies a weekly rest period of 24 consecutive hours, preferably on Sundays. The law also provides for paid annual vacation, prohibits excessive compulsory overtime, limits overtime to two hours per workday, and stipulates that hours worked above the monthly limit must be compensated with at least time-and-a-half pay; these provisions generally were enforced for all groups of workers in the formal sector. The constitution also provides for the right of domestic workers to an eight-hour workday, a maximum of 44 hours’ work per week, a minimum wage, a lunch break, social security, and severance pay. According to the IBGE, 33.3 million persons were employed in the formal sector as of May. The IBGE also reported that between July and September, there were 22.9 million persons working in the informal economy, an increase of 5 percent, compared with the same period in 2016.

The Ministry of Labor sets occupational, health, and safety standards that are consistent with internationally recognized norms, although unsafe working conditions were prevalent throughout the country, especially in construction. The law requires employers to establish internal committees for accident prevention in workplaces. It also provides for the protection of employees from being fired for their committee activities. Workers could generally remove themselves from situations that endangered their health or safety without jeopardy to their employment, although those in forced labor situations without access to transportation were particularly vulnerable to situations that endangered their health and safety.

In August the Sao Paulo Federal Court took criminal action against the clothing store Gregory for subjecting Bolivian employees to workdays of 14-17 hours and paying three reais ($0.93) per clothing item produced.

The Ministry of Labor addressed problems related to acceptable conditions of work such as long workdays and unsafe or unhygienic work conditions. Penalties for violations include fines that varied widely depending on the nature of the violation; the fines were generally enforced and were sometimes sufficient to deter violations. The National Labor Inspection School held various training sessions for labor inspectors throughout the year. The Ministry of Labor reported the number of labor inspectors (2,500) in the country was insufficient to enforce full compliance nationwide. Inspections continued to take place despite reduced funding, leading to fewer inspectors and inspections.

The Digital Observatory of Healthy and Labor Safety reported that in the period 2012-16, almost 45,000 laborers suffered a workplace injury.

China (includes Tibet, Hong Kong, and Macau)

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The law does not provide for freedom of association, and workers are not free to organize or join unions of their own choosing. Independent unions are illegal, and the law does not protect the right to strike. The law allows for collective wage bargaining for workers in all types of enterprises. The law further provides for industrial sector-wide or regional collective contracts, and enterprise-level collective contracts were generally compulsory throughout the country. Regulations require the government-controlled union to gather input from workers prior to consultation with management and to submit collective contracts to workers or their congress for approval. There is no legal obligation for employers to negotiate or to bargain in good faith, and some employers refused to do so.

The law provides legal protections against antiunion discrimination and specifies that union representatives may not be transferred or terminated by enterprise management during their term of office. The law provides for the reinstatement of workers dismissed for union activity as well as for other enterprise penalties for antiunion activities. The law does not protect workers who request or take part in collective negotiations with their employers independent of the officially recognized union. In several cases reported during the year, workers faced reprisals including forced resignation, firing, and detention.

The All China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU) is the only union recognized under the law. All union activity must be approved by and organized under the ACFTU, a CCP organ chaired by a member of the Politburo. The ACFTU and its provincial and local branches continued aggressively to establish new constituent unions and add new members, especially among migrant workers, in large, multinational enterprises. The law gives the ACFTU financial and administrative control over constituent unions empowered to represent employees in negotiating and signing collective contracts with enterprises and public institutions. The law does not mandate the ACFTU to represent the interests of workers in disputes.

The ACFTU and the CCP used a variety of mechanisms to influence the selection of trade union representatives. Although the law states trade union officers at each level should be elected, the ACFTU-affiliated unions appointed most factory-level officers, often in coordination with employers. Official union leaders often were drawn from the ranks of management. Direct election by workers of union leaders continued to be rare, occurred only at the enterprise-level, and was subject to supervision by higher levels of the union or the CCP. In enterprises where direct election of union officers took place, regional ACFTU officers and local CCP authorities retained control over the selection and approval of candidates. Even in these cases, workers and NGOs expressed concern about the credibility of elections.

The law provides for labor dispute resolution through a three-stage process: mediation between the parties, arbitration by officially designated arbitrators, and litigation. Employers are required to consult with labor unions or employee representatives on matters that have a direct bearing on the immediate interests of their workers. Three new labor-dispute arbitration rules aimed at streamlining the dispute settlement process were implemented during the year. One measure that took effect June 1 states that workers should seek assistance from the official union in the arbitration process. Civil society organizations alleged that these revisions effectively exclude independent labor nongovernmental organizations from representing workers in labor disputes.

The law does not expressly prohibit work stoppages, and it is legal for workers to strike spontaneously. Authorities appeared most tolerant of strikes protesting unpaid or underpaid wages. Unofficial records from the Hong Kong-based labor rights NGO China Labor Bulletin showed that between January and June the majority of strikes and collective protests were due to unpaid wages.

In some cases local authorities cracked down on such strikes, sometimes charging leaders with vague criminal offenses, such as “picking quarrels and provoking trouble,” “disturbing public order,” “damaging production operations,” or detaining them without any charges. The only legally specified role for the ACFTU in strikes is to participate in investigations and assist the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security in resolving disputes.

Despite the appearances of a strong labor movement and relatively high levels of union registration, genuine freedom of association and worker representation did not exist. The ACFTU constituent unions were generally ineffective in representing and protecting the rights and interests of workers. Workers generally did not view the ACFTU as an advocate, especially migrant workers who had the least interaction with union officials.

Enforcement was generally insufficient to deter wide-scale violations. Labor inspectors lacked authority and resources to compel employers to correct violations. While the law outlines general procedures for resolving disputes, procedures were lengthy and subject to delays. Local authorities in some areas actively sought to limit efforts by independent civil society organizations and legal practitioners. Some areas maintained informal quotas on the number of cases allowed to proceed beyond mediation.

There continued to be reports of workers throughout the country engaging in wildcat strikes, work stoppages, and other protest actions. Bus drivers from a Guangdong municipality reportedly began a strike on June 27. They approached the local authority to protest unbearably low wages and benefits, mounting workloads, and increasing living costs. More than two-thirds of the bus services were suspended, and the drivers said they would continue to strike until they receive the government’s reply.

The number of labor disputes rose steadily in recent years, and local and provincial governments responded. For example, the Guangdong government implemented the new Guangdong Provincial Labor and Human Resources Mediation Measures on May 1 to cope with the rapid increase of labor disputes.

Coordinated efforts by governments at the central, provincial, and local levels, including harassment, detention, and the imposition of travel restrictions on labor rights defenders and restrictions on funding sources for NGOs, disrupted labor rights advocacy. The Guangzhou Intermediate People’s Court sentenced labor activist Liu Shaoming to four and one-half years’ imprisonment on July 7 after finding him guilty of “inciting subversion of state power.” A veteran of the 1989 prodemocracy movement, Liu was initially detained in May 2015 for “picking quarrels and provoking trouble,” then formally arrested in July 2015 for the more serious charge of inciting subversion.

On September 3, authorities released Meng Han, who had been convicted in November 2016 for “gathering a crowd to disturb social order.”

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits forced and compulsory labor, and where there were reports that forced labor of adults and children occurred, the government reportedly enforced the law. Although domestic media rarely reported forced labor cases and the penalties imposed, the law provides a range of penalties depending on the circumstances, including imprisonment, criminal detention, and fines. It was unclear whether the penalties were sufficient to deter violations.

Persons with mental disabilities were subjected to forced labor in small workshops and factories. Police raided two workshops in Heilongjiang Province in the northeast in July and freed more than 30 enslaved laborers, according to media reports.

In 2013 the NPC abolished the Re-education through Labor system, an arbitrary system of administrative detention without judicial review. Some media outlets and NGOs reported that forced labor continued in some drug rehabilitation facilities where individuals continued to be detained without judicial process. It was not possible to independently to verify these reports.

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The law prohibits the employment of children under the age of 16. It refers to workers between the ages of 16 and 18 as “juvenile workers” and prohibits them from engaging in certain forms of dangerous work, including in mines. The government did not effectively enforce the law.

The law specifies administrative review, fines, and revocation of business licenses of enterprises that illegally hire minors and provides that underage working children be returned to their parents or other custodians in their original place of residence. The penalty is imprisonment for employing children under age 16 in hazardous labor or for excessively long hours, but a gap remained between legislation and implementation despite annual inspection campaigns launched by local authorities across the country. It was unclear whether the penalties were sufficient to deter violations.

Abuse of the student-worker system continued; as in past years, there were allegations that schools and local officials improperly facilitated the supply of student laborers.

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The law provides some basis for legal protection against employment discrimination on the grounds of ethnicity, race, gender, religious belief, disability, age, and infectious or occupational diseases.

The Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security and the local labor bureaus were responsible for verifying that enterprises complied with the labor laws and the employment promotion law. The government did not effectively implement the laws.

Enforcement clauses include the right to pursue civil damages through the courts. Courts were generally reluctant to accept discrimination cases, and authorities at all levels emphasized negotiated settlements to labor disputes. As a result there were few examples of enforcement actions that resulted in final legal decisions. Discrimination in employment was widespread, including in recruitment advertisements that discriminated based on gender, age, height, birthplace, and physical appearance and health status (see section 6).

Some employers lowered the effective retirement age for female workers to 50. This reduced overall pension benefits, which were generally based on the number of years worked. Many employers preferred to hire men to avoid the expense of maternity leave. In March the Xiamen Intermediate Court ordered a local high technology company to compensate a former senior female manager 134,640 yuan ($19,120) for unlawfully terminating her contract during maternity leave and accusing her of embezzling company assets, according to media.

In August an official newspaper sponsored by the Ministry of Justice called attention to the worsening discrimination against women since the government eased its birth control policy and allowed couples to have a second child starting in January 2016.

Effective from January 2016, provisional regulations require local authorities to establish a streamlined process for migrants to register as urban residents. While the regulations would provide many of the estimated 270 million migrant workers residing in urban centers with limited social benefits, the unaltered half-century-old hukou system remained the most pervasive form of employment-related discrimination, denying migrant workers access to the full range of social benefits, including health care, pensions, and disability programs, on an equal basis with local residents.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

There is no national minimum wage, but the law generally requires local and provincial governments to set their own minimum wage rates for both the formal and informal sectors according to standards promulgated by the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security. It also prohibits overtime work in excess of three hours per day or 36 hours per month and mandates premium pay for overtime work.

The State Administration for Work Safety sets and enforces occupational health and safety regulations. The law requires employers to provide free health checkups for employees working in hazardous conditions and to inform them of the results. The law also provides workers the right to report violations or remove themselves from workplace situations that could endanger their health without jeopardy to their employment.

Regulations state that labor and social security bureaus at or above the county-level are responsible for enforcement of labor laws. Companies that violate occupational, safety, and health regulations face various penalties, including suspension of business operations or rescission of business certificates and licenses.

The government did not effectively enforce the law. Penalties were not adequate to deter violations and were seldom enforced. The number of inspectors was insufficient to monitor working conditions and did not operate in the informal sector. Although the country’s worker safety record improved, there were a number of workplace accidents during the year. Media and NGO reports attributed them to a lack of safety checks, weak enforcement of laws and regulations, ineffective supervision, and inadequate emergency responses.

Nonpayment of wages remained a problem in many areas. Governments at various levels continued efforts to prevent arrears and to recover payment of unpaid wages and insurance contributions. It remained possible for companies to relocate or close on short notice, often leaving employees without adequate recourse for due compensation.

Unpaid wages have been an acute problem in the construction sector for decades due to the prevalence of hiring subcontracted low-wage migrant workers. This informal hiring scheme made rural laborers susceptible to delayed payment or nonpayment for their work, prompting them to join in collective action. Workers occasionally took drastic measures to demand payment. In January the ACFTU claimed its national network helped more than 2.2 million migrants recover a total of 22 billion yuan ($3.3 billion) in unpaid wages owed in 2016.

Workers in the informal sector often lacked coverage under labor contracts, and even with contracts, migrant workers in particular had less access to benefits, especially social insurance. Workers in the informal sector worked longer hours and earned one-half to two-thirds as much as comparable workers in the formal sector.

According to government sources, only an estimated 10 percent of eligible employees received regular occupational health services. Small and medium-sized enterprises, the country’s largest group of employers, often failed to provide the required health services. They also did not provide proper safety equipment to help prevent disease and were rarely required to pay compensation to victims and their families.

According to several official documents published during the year, occupational diseases were prevalent. Patients came from many industries, including coal, chemical engineering, and nonferrous metals. Data from the State Administration for Work Safety showed that occupational diseases were rampant in more than 30 industries, threatening 30 percent of the country’s enterprises, and newly reported cases, especially of pneumoconiosis, or black lung disease, were on the rise.

The number of workplace accidents and fatalities in the country decreased on a year-on-year basis. From January to November, the number of workplace accidents dropped 26.9 percent compared with the previous year, while fatalities in those accidents dropped 20.6 percent.

The coal mining industry was extremely deadly. On May 7, a gas leak caused an explosion at the Jilinqiao colliery in Hunan Province, killing 18 miners, according to media reports. On August 11, a landslide occurred at an open-pit coalmine in the north, in Shanxi Province. Media reported local government officials visited the site twice to investigate internet reports of casualties, but the coalmine company denied all the rumored casualties. Authorities then detained the author of the online report for “fabricating information online.” The company head later turned himself in to police and confessed that 10 workers were killed in the accident.

Work accidents also remained widespread in other industries. On June 1, a fire raged for 12 hours at a paper company in the Tianjin port. Even though no casualties were reported, local residents were reminded of the chemical plant only two miles away where a series of explosions in 2015 left 165 persons dead and nearly 800 injured. On August 16, an explosion at a petrochemical company in the east, in Shandong Province, killed 10 persons.


READ SECTION: China (above)| Tibet | Hong Kong | Macau

China (includes Tibet, Hong Kong, and Macau) – Hong Kong

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The law provides for the right of workers to form and join independent unions without previous authorization or excessive requirements and to conduct legal strikes, but it does not protect the right to collective bargaining or obligate employers to bargain. Trade unions claimed the lack of collective bargaining rights allows employers simply to refuse to bargain. The law explicitly prohibits civil servants from bargaining collectively.

Trade unions must register with the government’s Registry of Trade Unions and must have a minimum membership of seven persons for registration. Workers were not prevented from unionizing; however, the law restricts members and officers of unions to those who are “ordinarily resident” in the SAR and have been employed or engaged with an industry or occupation related to the union.

The law provides for the right to strike, although there are some restrictions on this right for civil servants. The law prohibits firing an employee for striking and voids any section of an employment contract that would punish a worker for striking. The commissioner of police has broad authority to control and direct public gatherings in the interest of national security or public safety. According to the law, an employer cannot fire, penalize, or discriminate against an employee who exercises his or her union rights and cannot prevent or deter the employee from exercising such rights.

The government effectively enforced the law. Penalties for violations of antiunion laws included fines as well as legal damages paid to workers, and penalties were sufficient to deter violations. An employee who is unreasonably and unlawfully dismissed (including on the grounds of the employee exercising trade union rights) is entitled to reinstatement or re-engagement, subject to mutual consent of the employer and the employee, or monetary compensation for unreasonable and unlawful dismissal.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law does not prohibit all forms of forced or compulsory labor, nor do laws specifically criminalize forced labor. Instead, the SAR uses its Employment and Theft Ordinances to prosecute labor violations and related offenses. Penalties for these offenses were not sufficient to deter violations.

NGOs expressed concerns some migrant workers faced high levels of indebtedness assumed as part of the recruitment process, creating a risk they could fall victim to debt bondage. The SAR allows for the collection of placement fees of up to 10 percent of the first month’s wages, but some recruitment firms required large up-front fees in the country of origin that workers struggled to repay. Some locally licensed employment agencies were suspected of colluding with agencies in the Philippines and Indonesia to profit from a debt scheme, and some local agencies illegally confiscated the passports, employment contracts, and automatic teller machine cards of domestic workers and withheld them until their debt was repaid.

There also were reports some employers illegally forbade domestic workers from leaving the residence of work for non-work-related reasons, effectively preventing them from reporting exploitation to authorities. SAR authorities said they encouraged aggrieved workers to file complaints and make use of government conciliation services as well as actively pursued reports of any labor violations.

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

Regulations prohibit employment of children younger than 15 in any industrial establishment. The law prohibits overtime in industrial establishments with employment in dangerous trades for persons younger than 18. Children 13-14 years of age may work in certain nonindustrial establishments, subject to conditions aimed at ensuring a minimum of nine years of education and protection of their safety, health, and welfare.

The Labor Department effectively enforced these laws and regularly inspected workplaces to enforce compliance with the regulations. Penalties for violations of child labor laws include fines and legal damages and were sufficient to deter violations.

There were reports that girls from some countries in Asia were subjected to commercial sexual exploitation (see section 6, Children).

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The law and regulations prohibit employment discrimination on the grounds of race or ethnicity, disability, family status (marital status and/or pregnancy), or sex. The law stipulates employers must prove that proficiency in a particular language is a justifiable job requirement if they reject a candidate on these grounds. Regulations do not prohibit employment discrimination on the grounds of color, religion, political opinion, national origin or citizenship, sexual orientation and/or gender identity, HIV-positive status or other communicable diseases, or social status.

The government generally enforced these laws and regulations. In cases in which employment discrimination occurred, the SAR’s courts had broad powers to levy penalties on those who violated these laws and regulations.

Human rights activists and local scholars continued to raise concerns about job prospects for minority students, who were more likely to hold low-paying, low-skilled jobs and earn below-average wages. Academics assessed that a lack of Chinese language skills was the greatest barrier to employment. Minority group leaders and activists reported that government Chinese-language requirements for many job applicants excluded nonnative Chinese speakers from civil service and law enforcement positions.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

On May 1, the statutory minimum hourly wage was readjusted to HK$34.50 ($4.41). In September the SAR increased domestic workers’ minimum monthly wage from HK$4,310 ($552) to HK$4,410 ($564) and increased their minimum monthly food allowance from HK$1,037 ($133) to HK$1,053 ($135). The government requires employers to provide foreign domestic workers with housing, worker’s compensation insurance, and a travel allowance. In its explanation of why live-in domestic workers (both local and foreign) would not be covered by the statutory minimum wage, the government explained “the distinctive working pattern–round-the-clock presence, provision of service-on-demand, and the multifarious domestic duties expected of live-in domestic workers–made it impossible to ascertain the actual hours worked so as to determine the wages to be paid.”

The official poverty line was half of the median monthly household income before tax and welfare transfers, based on household size. For a one-person household, the poverty line was set at HK$3,800 ($486), for a two-person household HK$8,800 ($1,126), for a three-person household HK$14,000 ($1,791), and so on.

There is no law concerning working hours, paid weekly rest, rest breaks, or compulsory overtime for most employees. In the absence of such legislation, labor rights groups previously reported most SAR residents worked approximately 56 hours per week. An online survey of foreign domestic workers showed that 76 percent worked more than 12 hours per day and 17 percent worked more than 16 hours per day.

Laws exist to provide for health and safety of workers in the workplace. Workers may remove themselves from situations that endanger health or safety without jeopardy to their employment. No laws restrict work during typhoon or rainstorm warnings. The Labor Department issued a “code of practice” on work arrangements in times of severe weather, which includes a recommendation that employers require only essential staff to come to work during certain categories of typhoon or rainstorm warnings. Many businesses closed during extreme weather. Employers are required to report any injuries sustained by their employees in work-related accidents.

The government generally enforced the law, and the Labor Tribunal adjudicated disputes involving nonpayment or underpayment of wages and wrongful dismissal. Penalties for violations of minimum wage or occupational safety and health violations include fines, payments of damages, and worker’s compensation payments. These penalties were sufficient to deter violations.

The Occupational Safety and Health Branch of the Labor Department is responsible for safety and health promotion, identification of unsafe conditions, enforcement of safety management legislation, and policy formulation and implementation; it enforced occupational safety and health laws effectively.

In December 2016 a High Court judge ruled the government failed to protect adequately the human rights and safety of a Pakistani man trafficked to the SAR and forced into unpaid labor for several years. The government’s appeal of the case was pending at year’s end.

In 2016 the Labor Department recorded 35,768 occupational injuries and 203 workplace fatalities. In March the chief executive of the Association for the Rights of Industrial Accident Victims claimed the Highways Department had disregarded worker safety on the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge construction project. According to the organization, as of March, 10 workers had died and more than 600 were injured while working on the bridge since 2010.


READ SECTION: CHINA | TIBET | HONG KONG (above) | MACAU

China (includes Tibet, Hong Kong, and Macau) – Macau

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The Basic Law provides workers the right to form and join unions, but the Legislative Assembly had not passed legislation to regulate this right. Workers may join labor associations of their choice, but PRC authorities wield considerable influence over some of the most powerful associations. The law does not provide that workers can collectively bargain, and, while workers have the right to strike, there is no specific protection in the law from retribution if workers exercise this right. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination, stating employees or job seekers shall not be prejudiced, deprived of any rights, or exempted from any duties based on their membership in an association. The law does not require reinstatement of workers dismissed for union activity.

Workers in certain professions, such as the security forces, are forbidden to form unions, take part in protests, or to strike. Such groups had organizations that provided welfare and other services to members and could speak to the government on behalf of members. Vulnerable groups of workers, including domestic workers and migrant workers, could freely associate and form associations, as could public servants.

In order to register as an association, the government requires an organization to provide the names and personal information of its leadership structure.

The government generally enforced the relevant legislation. The law imposes financial penalties for antiunion discrimination. Observers have previously noted this may not be sufficient to deter discriminatory activity.

Workers who believed they were dismissed unlawfully could bring a case to court or lodge a complaint with the Labor Affairs Bureau (LAB) or the CAC, which also has an Ombudsman Bureau to handle complaints over administrative violations. The bureau makes recommendations to the relevant government departments after its investigation.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits forced or compulsory labor. Penalties range from three to 12 years’ imprisonment, with the minimum and maximum sentences increased by one-third if the victim is younger than 14 years of age. Observers have previously noted these penalties generally were considered sufficient to deter the use of forced labor. The government has a special, interagency unit to fight human trafficking, the Human Trafficking Deterrent Measures Concern Committee. In addition to holding seminars to raise awareness about human trafficking, the committee operates two 24-hour telephone hotlines, one for reporting trafficking and another to assist trafficking victims.

Children and migrants were vulnerable to forced prostitution and labor including in construction and domestic work. The government investigated cases, but there were no convictions during the year.

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

A law prohibits minors younger than 16 years of age from working, although minors between 14 and 16 years of age may work in “exceptional circumstances” if they obtain a health certificate to prove they have the “necessary robust physique to engage in a professional activity.” Under the law, “exceptional circumstances” are defined as: the minor (younger than 16 years old) has completed compulsory education and has the authorization of the LAB after hearing the Education and Youth Affairs Bureau’s opinions; minors between 14 and 16 years of age may work for public or private entities during school summer holidays; minors of any age may be employed for cultural, artistic or advertising activities upon authorization of the LAB after hearing the Education and Youth Affairs Bureau’s opinions and when such employment does not adversely affect their school attendance. Local laws do not establish specific regulations governing the number of hours children younger than 16 years old can work. The law governing the number of working hours (eight hours a day, 40 hours a week) was equally applicable to adults and legal working minors, but the law prohibits minors from working overtime hours. According to the civil code, minors who are 16 years old can acquire full legal capacity if they marry.

The law prohibits minors younger than 16 years of age from certain types of work, including but not limited to domestic work, employment between 9 p.m. and 7 a.m., and employment at places where admission of minors is forbidden, such as casinos. The government requires employers to assess the nature, extent, and duration of risk exposure at work before recruiting or employing a minor. These regulations are intended to protect children from physically hazardous work, including exposure to dangerous chemicals, and jobs deemed inappropriate due to the child’s age.

The LAB enforced the law through periodic and targeted inspections, and prosecuted violators. Regulations stipulate LAB inspectors shall be trained to look for child labor in order to carry out their responsibilities. Employers are obligated to provide professional training and working conditions appropriate to a minor’s age to prevent situations that undermine his/her education and could endanger health, safety, and physical and mental development.

From July 2016 to June, LAB inspectors found two violations of child labor laws resulting in fines of 40,000 patacas ($5,000).

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The law provides that all residents shall be equal before the law and shall be free from discrimination, irrespective of national or social origin, descent, race, color, gender, sexual orientation, age, marital status, language, religion, political or ideological beliefs, membership in associations, education, or economic background. Local law requires employers to provide equal pay for equal work, regardless of gender.

There were no reports the government failed to enforce the relevant laws but some discrimination occurred. According to official statistics, at the end of July, nonresident workers accounted for approximately 28 percent of the population. They frequently complained of discrimination in the workplace in hiring and wages, and some classes of migrants were not provided equal employment benefits. Most worked in the restaurant and hotel industry, but others were employed as domestic servants, or in construction and retail trade.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Local labor laws establish the general principle of fair wages and mandate compliance with wage agreements. There was no mandatory minimum wage, except for a minimum wage for security guards and cleaners, which was set at was 30 patacas ($3.75) per hour. The SAR does not calculate an official poverty line, and its median monthly income is 15,000 patacas ($1,875). The law provides for a 48-hour workweek (many businesses operated on a 40-hour workweek), an eight-hour workday, paid overtime, annual leave, and medical and maternity care. The law provides for a 24-hour rest period each week. The law does not define “temporary contract” or “short-term contract.” It states only that a labor contract may be either for a defined term or of indefinite duration. All workers employed in the SAR, whether under a term contract or an indefinite contract, are entitled to such benefits as specified working hours, weekly leave, statutory holidays, annual leave, and sick leave.

The law includes a requirement that employers provide a safe working environment, and the LAB sets industry-appropriate occupational safety and health standards. The law prohibits excessive overtime but permits legal overtime (up to eight hours, and irrespective of workers’ consent) in force majeure cases or in response to external shocks, at the discretion of the employer.

All workers, including migrants, have access to the courts in cases in which an employee is unlawfully dismissed, an employer fails to pay compensation, or a worker believes his/her legitimate interests were violated. If an employer dismisses staff “without just cause,” they must provide economic compensation indexed to an employee’s length of service.

The LAB provides assistance and legal advice to workers upon request, and cases of labor-related malpractices are referred to the LAB.

The LAB enforced occupational safety and health regulations, and failure to correct infractions could lead to prosecution. The number of labor inspectors in the country was adequate to enforce compliance. Health Bureau guidelines protect pregnant workers and those with heart and lung diseases from exposure to secondhand smoke by exempting them from work in smoking areas, such as casinos. In August and September, hundreds of Galaxy Entertainment employees complained to the LAB of working conditions at the time Typhoon Hato struck the SAR, with staff complaining of unpaid overtime and insufficient rest time, according to media reports.

The law allows workers to remove themselves from hazardous conditions without jeopardy to their employment.

From July 2016 to June, authorities recorded 24 workplace fatalities, and workplace injuries permanently incapacitated 31 persons.


READ SECTION: ChinaTibet | Hong Kong | Macau (above)

China (includes Tibet, Hong Kong, and Macau) – Tibet

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

N/A

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

N/A

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

N/A

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

N/A

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

N/A


READ SECTION: CHINA | TIBET (above) | HONG KONGMACAU

India

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The law provides for the right to form and join unions and bargain collectively, although there is no legal obligation for employers to recognize a union or engage in collective bargaining. In the state of Sikkim, trade union registration was subject to prior permission from the state government. The law limits the organizing rights of federal and state government employees.

The law provides for the right to strike but places restrictions on this right for some workers. For instance, in export processing zones (EPZs), a 45-day notice is required because of the EPZs’ designations as “public utilities.” The law also allows the government to ban strikes in government-owned enterprises and requires arbitration in specified “essential industries.” Definitions of essential industries vary from state to state. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination and retribution for involvement in legal strikes and provides for reinstatement of employees fired for union activity.

Enforcement of the law varied from state to state and from sector to sector. Enforcement was generally better in the larger, organized-sector industries. Authorities generally prosecuted and punished individuals responsible for intimidation or suppression of legitimate trade union activities in the industrial sector. Civil judicial procedures addressed abuses because the Trade Union Act does not specify penalties for such abuses. Specialized labor courts adjudicate labor disputes, but there were long delays and a backlog of unresolved cases.

Employers generally respected freedom of association and the right to organize and bargain collectively in the formal industrial sector but not in the large, informal economy. Most union members worked in the formal sector, and trade unions represented a small number of agricultural and informal-sector workers. An estimated 80 percent of unionized workers affiliated with one of the five major trade union federations. Unions were independent of the government, but four of the five major federations were associated with major political parties. According to the Ministry of Labor and Employment, there were 163 strikes in 2015. State and local authorities occasionally used their power to declare strikes illegal and force adjudication. Membership-based organizations, such as the Self Employed Women’s Association, successfully organized informal-sector workers and helped them to gain higher payment for their work or products.

On May 31, 425 workers of Aisin Automotive company in Rohtak, Haryana, were arrested while protesting the dismissal of coworkers who had sought to form a trade union. The arrested workers were charged with assault and obstructing the functioning of government officials and released on bail. Labor groups reported that some employers continued to refuse to recognize established unions and some, instead, established “workers’ committees” and employer-controlled unions to prevent independent unions from organizing. EPZs often employed workers on temporary contracts. Additionally, employee-only restrictions on entry to the EPZs limited union organizers’ access. On August 22, nearly one million employees of state owned banks went on strike to protest the federal government’s plans to merge various banks.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor, but this problem, including bonded child labor (see section 7.c.), remained widespread.

Estimates of the number of bonded laborers varied widely, although some NGOs placed the number in the tens of millions. Most bonded labor occurred in agriculture. Nonagricultural sectors with a high incidence of bonded labor were stone quarries, brick kilns, rice mills, construction, embroidery factories, and beedi (hand-rolled cigarettes) production.

Enforcement and compensation for victims is the responsibility of state and local governments and varied in effectiveness. The government generally did not effectively enforce laws related to bonded labor or labor trafficking laws, such as the Bonded Labor System (Abolition) Act. When inspectors referred violations for prosecution, court backlogs, inadequate prosecution, and a lack of prioritization sometimes resulted in acquittals. Prosecutions were rare.

The Ministry of Labor and Employment continued to work with the International Labor Organization to combat bonded labor, including the “convergence program” in the states of Andhra Pradesh and Odisha to target workers vulnerable to bonded labor.

The Ministry of Labor and Employment reported the federally funded, state-run Centrally Sponsored Scheme allowed the release of 2,607 bonded laborers during the period April 2016 through March. Some NGOs reported delays in obtaining release certificates for rescued bonded laborers that were required to certify employers held them in bondage and entitled them to compensation under the law. The distribution of rehabilitation funds was uneven across states. In May 2016 the government revised its bonded labor rehabilitation program and increased the compensation for victims from 20,000 rupees ($320) to 100,000 rupees ($1,600) for male victims, 200,000 rupees ($3,200) for women and child victims, and 300,000 rupees ($4,800) for sexually exploited women and child victims.

Bonded labor, particularly in brick kilns, continued to be a concern in several states. In March, Uttar Pradesh authorities, with assistance from an NGO, rescued 149 bonded laborers from two brick kilns in the state.

On March 10, a Karnataka district court sentenced a brick kiln owner who employed 12 workers as bonded laborers to 10 years in prison with hard labor. The court imposed a penalty of approximately 15,500 rupees ($250) for employing bonded labor in his premises. Authorities had charged the perpetrator under the Bonded Labor System (Abolition) Act along with Section 370 of the Indian Penal Code.

On July 24, nearly 88 bonded laborers, including 25 children and 29 women, were rescued from a brick kiln following a complaint received by the Delhi-based National Campaign Committee for Eradication of Bonded Labor.

SC and ST members lived and worked under traditional arrangements of servitude in many areas of the country. Although the central government had long abolished forced labor servitude, these social groups remained impoverished and vulnerable to forced exploitation, especially in Arunachal Pradesh.

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The government amended the Child Labor (Abolition) Act in August 2016 to ban employment of children below the age of 14. The amended law also prohibits the employment of children between the ages of 14 and 18 in hazardous work except in mines. Children are prohibited from using flammable substances, explosives, or other hazardous material, as defined by the law. In March the Ministry of Labor and Employment added 16 industries and 59 processes to the list of hazardous industries where employment of children below the age of 18 is prohibited and where children under 14 are prohibited from helping, including family enterprises. The law, however, permits employment of children in family-owned enterprises, involving nonhazardous activities, after school hours. Nevertheless, child labor remained widespread.

State governments enforced labor law and employed labor inspectors, while the Ministry of Labor and Employment provided oversight and coordination. Nevertheless, violations were common. The amended law establishes a penalty in the range of 20,000 rupees ($320) to 50,000 rupees ($800) per child employed in hazardous industries. Such fines were often insufficient to deter violations, and authorities sporadically enforced them. The fines are deposited in a welfare fund for formerly employed children.

The Ministry of Labor and Employment coordinated its efforts with states to raise awareness about child labor by funding various outreach events such as plays and community activities. On June 13, the government ratified two instrumental conventions of the International Labor Organization, Conventions 138 and 182, which set the minimum age for admission to employment and prohibit the worst forms of child labor, respectively.

According to news reports, the Rajasthan government’s antihuman trafficking unit rescued more than 500 children from roadside eateries, grocery shops, and vehicle repair shops in Kota, Bundi, Baran, and Jhalawar Districts during a month-long campaign in May and June.

The majority of child labor occurred in agriculture and the informal economy, in particular in stone quarries, in the rolling of cigarettes, and in informal food service establishments. Commercial sexual exploitation of children occurred (see section 6, Children).

The V. V. Giri National Institute of Labor reported that the two cities with the highest numbers of cases in the country were Hyderabad with 67,366 child workers and Jalore with 50,440.

Forced child labor, including bonded labor, also remained a serious problem. Employers engaged children in forced or indentured labor as domestic servants and beggars, as well as in quarrying, brick kilns, rice mills, silk-thread production, and textile embroidery.

Also see the Department of Labor’s Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor at www.dol.gov/ilab/reports/child-labor/findings/ .

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The law and regulations prohibit discrimination with respect to employment and occupation, with respect to race, sex, gender, disability, language, sexual orientation, and/or gender identity, or social status. The law does not prohibit discrimination against individuals with HIV/AIDS or other communicable diseases, color, religion, political opinion, national origin, or citizenship. The government effectively enforced the law and regulations within the formal sector. The law and regulations, however, do not protect those working within the informal sector, who made up an estimated 90 percent of the workforce.

Discrimination occurred in the informal sector with respect to Dalits, indigenous persons, and persons with disabilities. Legal protections are the same for all, but gender discrimination with respect to wages was prevalent. Foreign migrant workers were largely undocumented and typically did not enjoy the legal protection available to workers who are nationals of the country.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Federal law sets safety and health standards, but state government laws set minimum wages, hours of work, and additional state-specific safety and health standards. The daily minimum wage varied but was more than the official estimate of poverty level income. State governments set a separate minimum wage for agricultural workers.

Laws on wages, hours, and occupational health and safety do not apply to the large informal sector.

The law mandates a maximum eight-hour workday and 48-hour workweek, as well as safe working conditions, which include provisions for restrooms, cafeterias, medical facilities, and ventilation. The law mandates a minimum rest period of 30 minutes after every four hours of work and premium pay for overtime, but it does not mandate paid holidays. The law prohibits compulsory overtime, but it does not limit the amount of overtime a worker can work. Occupational safety and health standards set by the government were generally up to date and covered the main industries in the country.

State governments are responsible for enforcing minimum wages, hours of work, and safety and health standards. The number of inspectors generally was insufficient to enforce labor law. State governments often did not effectively enforce the minimum wage law for agricultural workers. Enforcement of safety and health standards was poor, especially in the informal sector but also in some formal sector industries. Penalties for violation of occupational safety and health standards range from a fine of 100,000 rupees ($1,600) to imprisonment for up to two years, but they were not sufficient to deter violations.

Violations of wage, overtime, and occupational safety and health standards were common in the informal sector (industries and/or establishments that do not fall under the purview of the Factories Act), which employed an estimated 90 percent of the workforce. Small, low-technology factories frequently exposed workers to hazardous working conditions. Undocumented foreign workers did not receive basic occupational health and safety protections. In many instances workers could not remove themselves from situations that endangered health or safety without jeopardizing their employment.

On March 15, two contracted sanitation workers of the Vijayawada Municipal Corporation in Andhra Pradesh died of suffocation inside an underground sewage line. Police registered a case of negligent death against their employer. According to an estimate by NGO Safai Karmachari Andolan, a longtime campaigner for eradication of manual scavenging, an estimated 1,500 individuals died cleaning septic tanks across the country between 2014 and 2016.

According to a 2016 Asian Human Rights Commission report, although the Supreme Court ordered enforcement of the law prohibiting employment as manual scavengers, calling for their rehabilitation, and banning manual cleaning of sewage lines, authorities rarely enforced the law. The commission quoted a Dalit rights activist who asserted that at least 700 deaths in manholes occurred every year.

Russia

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The law provides that workers may form and join independent unions, bargain collectively, and conduct legal strikes. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination, but it does not require employers to reinstate workers fired due to their union activity. The law prohibits reprisals against striking workers. Unions must register with the Federal Registration Service, often a cumbersome process that included lengthy delays and convoluted bureaucracy. The grounds on which trade union registration may be denied are not defined and could be arbitrary or unjustified. Active members of the military, civil servants, customs workers, judges and prosecutors, and persons working under civil contracts are excluded from the right to organize. The law requires labor unions to be independent of government bodies, employers, political parties, and NGOs.

The law places several restrictions on the right to bargain collectively. For example, only one collective bargaining agreement is permitted per enterprise, and only a union or group of unions representing at least one-half the workforce may bargain collectively. The law allows workers to elect representatives if there is no union. The law does not specify who has authority to bargain collectively when there is no trade union in an enterprise.

The labor code prohibits strikes in the military and emergency response services. It also prohibits strikes in essential public-service sectors, including utilities and transportation, and strikes that would threaten the country’s defense, and safety or the life and health of its workers. The law also prohibits some nonessential public servants from striking and imposes compulsory arbitration for railway, postal, and municipal workers as well as other public servants in roles other than law enforcement.

Union members must follow extensive legal requirements and engage in consultations with employers before acquiring the right to strike. According to the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Russia, the legal preparation for a strike takes at least 40 days. Solidarity strikes and strikes on issues related to state policies are illegal, as are strikes that do not respect the onerous time limits, procedures, and requirements mandated by law. Employers may hire workers to replace strikers. Workers must give prior notice of the following aspects of a proposed strike: a list of the differences of opinion between the parties that triggered the strike; the date and time at which the strike will start, its duration and the number of anticipated participants; the name of the body that is leading the strike and the representatives authorized to participate in the conciliation procedures; and proposals for the minimum service to be provided during the strike. In the event a declared strike is ruled illegal and takes place, courts may confiscate union property to cover employers’ losses.

The Federal Labor and Employment Service (RosTrud) regulates employer compliance with labor laws and is responsible for “controlling and supervising compliance with labor laws and other legal acts which deal with labor norms” by employers. Several state agencies including the Ministry of Justice, the Prosecutor’s Office, the Federal Service for Labor and Employment, and the Ministry of Internal Affairs are responsible for enforcing the law. These agencies, however, frequently failed to fulfill their responsibilities, and violations of freedom of association were common. Penalties were not sufficient to deter violations.

Employers frequently engaged in reprisals against workers for independent union activity, including threatening to assign them to night shifts, denying benefits, and blacklisting or firing them. Although unions were occasionally successful in court, in most cases managers who engaged in antiunion activities did not face penalties.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits most forms of forced or compulsory labor but allows for it as a penal sentence, in some cases as labor contracted to private enterprises.

The government was generally effective in enforcing laws against forced labor, but gaps remained in protecting migrant laborers, particularly from North Korea. Migrant forced labor occurred in the construction industry, logging industry, textile shops, and agricultural sector (see section 7.c.). Migrant workers at times experienced exploitative labor conditions characteristic of trafficking cases, such as withholding of identity documents, nonpayment for services rendered, physical abuse, and extremely poor living conditions.

Under a state-to-state agreement in effect since 2009, North Korean citizens worked in the country in a variety of sectors, including the logging and construction industries in the Far East. As of June 2016, the Federal State Statistics Service, citing GAMI numbers, registered 30,000 North Korean workers, many of whom worked under conditions of forced labor. Press reports indicated North Korean laborers helped build a new soccer stadium in St. Petersburg to be used in the 2018 World Cup, a project on which at least one laborer died. Two North Korean laborers died in central Moscow in July while working on a luxury apartment complex, and independent reports characterized conditions in the logging camps in the country’s Far East that employed North Korean laborers as consistent with forced labor.

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The law prohibits the employment of children under the age of 16 in most cases and regulates the working conditions of children younger than 18. The law permits children to work at the age of 14 under certain conditions and with the approval of a parent or guardian. Such work must not threaten the child’s health or welfare. The labor code lists occupations restricted for children under 18, including work in unhealthy or dangerous conditions, underground work, or jobs that might endanger a child’s health and moral development.

RosTrud is responsible for inspecting enterprises and organizations to identify violations of labor and occupational health standards for minors. The government did enforce the law but violations, such as employing child labor, were at times classified as administrative matters and punished with fines, doing little to deter future violations.

Child labor was uncommon in Russia, but could occur in agriculture and the informal construction and retail sectors. Some children, both Russian and foreign, were subjected to commercial sexual exploitation (see section 6, Children).

Also see the Department of Labor’s Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor at www.dol.gov/ilab/reports/child-labor/findings/ .

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The law does not prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, HIV status, gender identity, or disability. Employment discrimination laws were not always effectively enforced.

Discrimination based on gender in compensation, professional training, hiring, and dismissal was common. Employers often preferred to hire men to save on maternity and child-care costs and to avoid the perceived unreliability associated with women with small children. Such discrimination was often very difficult to prove, although NGOs reported several successful lawsuits in St. Petersburg against companies for wrongful termination of women on maternity leave.

A 2013 law prohibits employer discrimination in posting job vacancy information. It also prohibits employers from requesting workers with specific gender, race, nationality, address registration, age, and other factors unrelated to personal skills and competencies. Notwithstanding the law, vacancy announcements sometimes specified gender and age requirements, and some also specified a desired physical appearance. According to the Center for Social and Labor Rights, courts often ruled in favor of employees filing complaints, but the sums awarded were inconsequential. Many employees therefore preferred not to spend the money and time to take legal action.

The labor code restricts women’s employment in jobs with “harmful or dangerous conditions or work underground, except in nonphysical jobs or sanitary and consumer services,” and forbids women’s employment in “manual handling of bulk weights that exceed the limits set for their handling.”

The labor code includes hundreds of tasks prohibited for women. These include restrictions on employment in mining, manufacturing, and construction.

The World Economic Forum’s publication, The Global Gender Gap Report 2015, based on the country’s annual statistics report, documented a widespread gender pay gap and noted that, while women were close to parity in senior business roles, women predominated in low-paying jobs in education, the health-care industry, and low-level sales positions. On average, women earned 72.6 percent of salaries for men, notwithstanding that 85 percent of women had completed some form of higher education compared with 68 percent of men.

Persons with disabilities were subject to employment discrimination. Companies with 35 to 100 employees have an employment quota of 1 to 3 percent for persons with disabilities, while those with more than 100 employees have a 2 to 4 percent quota. Some local authorities and private employers continued to discourage persons with disabilities from working. Inadequate workplace access for handicapped persons limited their work opportunities.

Many migrants regularly faced discrimination and hazardous or exploitative working conditions. Union organizers faced employment discrimination, limits on workplace access, and pressure to give up their union membership.

Employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity was a problem, especially in the public sector and education. Employers fired LGBTI persons for their sexual orientation, gender identity, or public activism in support of LGBTI rights. If they expected to be fired, some LGBTI persons chose to resign preemptively to avoid having their future prospects hindered by a dismissal on their resumes. Primary and secondary school teachers were often the targets of such pressure due to the law’s focus on so-called propaganda targeted at minors (see section 6, Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity).

Persons with HIV/AIDS were prohibited from working in some areas of medical research and medicine.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Beginning July 1, the national minimum wage for all sectors was 7,800 rubles ($134) per month, which was 78 percent of the subsistence minimum. The subsistence minimum income used by the government as the official poverty line was 9,889 rubles ($170) per month in September. Many local governments enacted minimum wage rates higher than the national rate.

Nonpayment of wages is a criminal offense and is punishable by fines, compulsory labor, or imprisonment. The government did not effectively enforce the law in either the formal or informal sectors, and nonpayment of wages remained widespread. Since October 2016, a new federal law increased administrative fines on employers who failed to pay salaries and set progressive compensation scales for workers impacted by wage arrears. According to the Russian Federal State Statistics Service (Rosstat), as of October 1, wage arrears amounted to 3.39 billion rubles ($58 million); 99 percent of arrears were due to organizations lacking internal funds. According to the newspaper the Moscow Times, in October six construction workers at the Vostochnyy Space Launch Center staged a hunger strike for the third year in a row over six months of unpaid wages.

The labor code contains provisions for standard workhours, overtime, and annual leave. The standard workweek cannot exceed 40 hours. Employers may not request overtime work from pregnant women, workers under the age of 18, and other categories of employees specified by federal laws. Standard annual paid leave is 28 calendar days. Employees who perform work involving harmful or dangerous labor conditions and employees in the Far North regions receive additional annual paid leave. Organizations have discretion to grant additional leave to employees.

The labor code stipulates that payment for overtime must be at least 150 percent for the first two hours and not less than 200 percent after that. At an employee’s request, overtime may be compensated by additional holiday leave. Overtime work cannot exceed four hours in a two-day period or 120 hours in a year for each employee. The law establishes minimum conditions for workplace safety and worker health, but does not explicitly allow workers to remove themselves from hazardous workplaces without threat to their employment. The law entitles foreigners working legally to the same rights and protections as citizens.

Occupational safety and health standards were appropriate to the main industries, and government inspectors are responsible for enforcement. Serious breaches of occupational safety and health provisions are criminal offenses. Experts generally pointed to prevention of these offenses, rather than adequacy of available punishment, as the main challenge to protection of worker rights. RosTrud, the agency that enforces the provisions, noted that state labor inspectors needed additional professional training and additional inspectors to enforce compliance.

According Rosstat, in 2016 a total of 21.2 percent of the labor force was employed in the informal economy, up from 20.5 percent in 2015 and the highest percentage since 2006. Rosstat defined the informal economy as enterprises not registered as legal companies, including persons who were self-employed or worked for an “individual entrepreneur.” Employment in the informal sector was concentrated in the southern regions. The largest share of laborers in the informal economy was concentrated in the trade, construction, and agricultural sectors, where workers were more vulnerable to exploitative working conditions. Labor migrants worked in low-quality jobs in construction but also in housing, utilities, agriculture, and retail trade sectors, often informally.

No national-level information was available on the number of workplace accidents or fatalities during the year. According to Rosstat, in 2015 approximately 28,200 workers were injured in industrial accidents, including 1,290 deaths. On June 22, an accident killed five workers in a sewage collector in Moscow. According to preliminary data, the workers died due to exposure to poison gas. RosTrud opened a criminal investigation into the employer.

In June, Human Rights Watch released a report that construction workers building stadiums for the International Federation of Association Football 2017 Confederations Cup and 2018 World Cup faced exploitation and labor abuses. The report documented how workers in six World Cup soccer stadium construction sites faced unpaid wages, wage payment delays, and failure to provide work contracts for legal employment. According to the Building and Wood Workers’ International global union, at least 17 workers died at World Cup stadium sites.

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