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Coal mines in Hunan illegally employ women workers

Published by MAC on 2006-05-15

Coal mines in Hunan illegally employ women workers

Some 249 female workers are illegally employed in more than 70 coal mines in Lengshuijiang City in Hunan, the provincial labour authorities have found.

According to a recent investigation conducted by the Hunan Provincial Labour and Social Security Department, the women miners working in the coal mines mostly came from poor areas and they received no job training before they went down to work in the mines. They were each paid only a few hundred yuan each month and the longest serving one had worked in the mine for 13 years.

After a gas leakage accident happened at Dongtang Coal Mine in Lengshuijiang City on 6 April in which nine miners, including four women, were killed, the provincial labour authorities set up four taskforces to investigate the mines in the city. The officials found that among the 4,713 miners working in more than 70 coal mines and six other mines in the city, 249 were women.

According to both the "Regulations on the Protection of Female Employees", which was enacted in 1988, and the PRC Labour Law, which was enacted in 1994, it strictly forbids women from working in coal mines.

Li Chu'e, a female coal miner who escaped the Dongtang Coal Mine accident, said her elder sister and brother-in-law were both killed in the accident. She said that in order to support her family, her sister had worked in the mine for more than 10 years. Describing the first time her sister took her down to the mine, Li said, "It felt like hell".

It is common to see women miners working in coal mines in Lengshuijiang City, according to a report of the Beijing News. It said that the working conditions and wages were the same for male and female miners there. There were more than 10 female miners at Dongtang Coal Mine and six of them were working underground when the accident occurred last month. Some women miners said although the work was very exhausting, they could earn a few hundred to about 1,000 yuan each month by going down to work in the mine – which is already an attractive income for women who come from poor villages.

Sources: Mingpao (9 May 2006), Beijing News (8 May 2006)

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