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China – Temporary workers used as the government’s scapegoats

23 January 2014

A culture of blaming temporary workers is rife across China, according to the New York Times. Known locally as lin shi gong, temporary workers are often the de facto scapegoats in times of corporate or governmental scandal.

In July 2013, two female traffic police offers got into a fistfight in Hebei Province. The fight was captured on film and went viral. The local police claimed that the women were temporary workers and therefore not an accurate representation of the police force. In another more disturbing incident the same month, an urban management enforcement bureau worker beat an unlicensed street vendor to death. Again, it was made clear that the worker was ‘auxiliary’, another name for temporary workers.

The culture of blaming temporary workers has become so widespread in recent years that the practice has even been criticised by the government’s own newspapers.        

An article in the China Daily, a party newspaper, in December 2010 denounced the practice of shifting blame in order to avoid scandals. Using the headline “Blaming Temporary Workers” the article declared that: “Employers, especially some government departments, should stop using temporary workers as an excuse to shirk their responsibilities in scandals… and the government should expedite the process of improving the system of accountability to stop the abuse of power.”

As temporary workers are not formal government employees, the government is able to divert any blame onto the individual(s) involved. However, this raises the questions; are these workers actually temporary, or are they simply labelled as such so that officials can avoid a scandal?        

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