China's ageing population and shrinking young labour force are shifting the bargaining power from employers to workers, says the South China Morning Post, noting the ongoing strike in Honda's China plants where workers are demanding a 50% pay rise.
Some workers are still refusing to return to work as Honda management has only offered a 24% increase in pay. Citing a Morgan Stanley report issued last week, the Post says the impact of the pay rise is expected to be minimal to Honda's profits, with labour costs accounting for only about 5% of revenue.
Lee Chang-hee, a Beijing-based senior specialist on industrial relations at the International Labour Organisation (ILO), told the Post that the Honda strike suggests that the labour market in China is going through a critical turning point. "This is the point when workers begin to take collective action to improve their wages and other working conditions, while previously they protested only when their legal rights were violated. It happened in the United States, Japan and Korea at a similar stage," Lee told the Post.