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/ Opinion/ Chen WeihuaBattle continues for 8-hour workdayUpdated: 2012-11-23 08:16By Chen Weihua ( China Daily)Comments() Print Mail Large Medium  SmallA huge sculpture stands on a sidewalk in Haymarket Square, Chicago, Illinois. It marks the place where the fight for eight-hour workday turned into a bloody riot on May 4, 1886.That event led to the birth of International Workers Day on May 1, also known as May Day. It is an official holiday in some 80 countries, except in its birthplace the United States.In China, International Labor Day has long been a major national holiday, trailing only Spring Festival and National Day in importance.Chinas Labor Law formulated in the mid-1990s stipulates that employees should not work more than eight hours a day and no more than 44 hours a week. Meanwhile, employers who demand their employees work overtime should negotiate with unions as well as workers.But talking to workers in New York, Shanghai and Beijing, I found that the hard-won eight-hour work is an unattainable luxury for many.One friend in Shanghai who works for a top international accounting firm has been working 12 to 16 hours a day for years. She continues her work at home at night, as well as on weekends.The same is also true for many journalists both in China and the US, not to mention the hundreds of millions of Chinese migrant workers laboring on construction sites and working in restaurants to make a living.Taxi drivers in Shanghai often have to work 16 hours a day, sometimes 20 hours, to make a living. To them, an eight-hour workday sounds simply too good to be true.While blue-collar workers are often forced to work long hours to make ends meet, many white-collar workers willingly work overtime to show their good work ethic.Even those who leave for home after long hours of work find their working day isnt over. They still have to work from home at night, thanks to the Internet.A survey conducted by a Tianjin-based newspaper a few years ago found that only 24.41 percent of employees in various companies said they work less than eight hours a day.A total of 75.59 percent said they work more than eight hours a day; 30 percent said they work more than 10 hours a day and 8 percent said they work more than 12 hours each day. Because of the tough competition for jobs, many employees have to surrender to their employers demands that they work more than eight hours in order to keep their jobs.When Robert Owen, the Welsh social reformer, first talked about his slogan of “eight hours labor, eight hours recreation and eight hours rest” about 200 years ago, he did not realize that he has set a goal that remains out of reach for many workers even today.Research suggests that long workdays tend to harm peoples health, for example, causing more stress and heart problems among workers who work more than eight hours a day. These hard-working folks also have less time with their families.As a result, while many Chinese workers have increased their incomes in the last more than three decades, many feel that their sense of happiness has decreased, as suggested by various surveys across the nation in recent years.I dont know how many people believe that the fight for an eight-hour workday is no longer an issue. The sculpture at the Haymarket Square in Chicago is simply a solemn reminder that there is still a long way to go before eight hours labor, eight hours recreation and eight hours rest become the established norm for most, if not all, workers.The author, based in New York, is deputy editor of China Daily USA. E-mail: chenweihua@chinadailyusa.com(China Daily 11/23/2012 page8)8.03KRelated StoriesLabor Day CarnivalLabor Day(美国劳动节)Premier Wen visits Beijing metro workers on Labor DayPremier Wen talks with workers on Labor DayMay Day holiday starts; Intl Labor Day markedMost ViewedTodays Top NewsAn amendment that could hurt US interestsIncreasing upward mobilityStock investors display double visionCold facts of a warming worldXi offers hope of claritySCOs role for peaceAnti-corruption action…ColumnistsOp RanaDoha is going the Durban wayZhu YuanPragmatism is the way forwardmoreCommentatorsBrian SalterWhat does Chinas TV regulator do most of the time?Han DongpingAmerican arrogance in display againmoreCartoonDebt CrisisGlobal warming Trouble in EurozoneGovernment jobs competitionSpecialWitnessing Chinas prosperityCourageous momentsForumVeiled beautiesTree house……| About China Daily | Advertise on Site | Contact Us | Job Offer |Copyright 1995 – 2010 . All rights reserved. The content (including but not limited to text, photo, multimedia information, etc) published in this site belongs to China Daily Information Co (CDIC). Without written authorization from CDIC, such content shall not be republished or used in any form. Note: Browsers with 1024*768 or higher resolution are suggested for this site.License for publishing multimedia online 0108263             Registration Number: 20100000002731      

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