Worked to Death

Worked Till They Drop (

The exact cause of Li’s death remains unknown. But what happened to her last November in this industrial town in southeastern Guangdong province is described by family, friends and co-workers as an example of what China’s more daring newspapers call guolaosi. The phrase means “over-work death,” and usually applies to young workers who suddenly collapse and die after working exceedingly long hours, day after day.

I knew Dad was lying when he said “a little hard work never hurt anyone.”

These new workers are younger, poorer, and less familiar with the promises of labor rights and job security that once served as the ideological bedrock of the ruling Communist Party. They are more likely to work for private companies, often backed by foreign investment, with no socialist tradition of cradle-to-grave benefits.

The young migrants are also second-class citizens, with less access to the weak courts and trade unions that sometimes temper market forces as China’s economy changes from socialist to capitalist. Most of all, they are outsiders, struggling to make a living far away from home.

I just love the implications in these two paragraphs. She would have been OK except for those filthy capitalist pigs.

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