Chinese Law Prof Blog

Editor: Donald C. Clarke
George Washington University Law School

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Sunday, November 6, 2005

Worker vs. cadre status in Chinese labor law

Chinalawinfo.com carries a report from the Morning News (晨报) showing that despite a quarter century of economic reform, the worker/cadre distinction remains important and has real bite. In this case, two women have brought an administrative lawsuit against Beijing's Haidian District Bureau of Labor and Social Insurance (海淀区劳动和社会保障局) for approving their (involuntary) retirement at age 50 from employment at the Xinxing Hotel (新兴宾馆). The retirement age for women of worker status is age 50; for women of cadre status, it's 55. These rules seem to be a holdover from an earlier era where (1) workers did manual labor, and so it was thought protective of female workers to give them earlier retirement, and (2) retirement meant reliable "iron rice bowl" benefits from a state-owned employer in the planned economy, and thus could be seen as a goal to aim for, not an imposition to be avoided. Neither of these premises hold true today; hence the lawsuit.

Two interesting things about this lawsuit:

  • The plaintiffs' litigation strategy is to bring an administrative lawsuit against a government agency for approving the allegedly wrongful classification, not against the employer for making the wrongful classification in the first place.
  • When I saw the headline for this article, I was expecting to read about a lawsuit for sex discrimination, since the retirement age for men is later. But the plaintiffs seem to have chosen not to make that particular claim. (It would almost certainly lose.)

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