Losing Battle Against Lung Disease and Workers’ Rights

Of the growing number of migrant workers affected by pneumoconiosis, Echo Hui reports, only a few manage to get compensation as authorities turn a blind eye to occupational health and workers’ rights. From South China Morning Post:

The incurable disease is caused by long-term exposure to industrial dust, such as from coal mining. It is the most serious and most common occupational disease in China today, according to official figures. Most sufferers are rural migrant workers.

[...] The mainland recorded 676,541 cases of pneumoconiosis in 2010, which accounted for 90.21 per cent of all occupational cases that year, said the Ministry of Health.

“The Ministry of Health figures count only patients who sought formal diagnosis of occupational injury from the centres for disease control,” said Wang Keqin, a former investigative journalist who founded Love Save in 2011. “Ninety per cent of pneumoconiosis patients are migrant workers, but fewer than 10 in every 100 workers are qualified for the diagnosis.”

[...] If a worker wanted to be evaluated for occupational injury, the person must have a labour contract. But only 5 per cent of rural migrant workers have such contracts with their employers, said a Chinese Academy of Social Sciences survey in 2008. [Source]

Some workers have taken drastic measures to seek medical compensation. In 2009, migrant worker turned sufferers’ rights advocate Zhang Haichao voluntarily underwent an operation to open up his chest in order to prove he was suffering from pneumoconiosis and receive compensation for the disease.