Despite the government’s active legislation to protect workers, labor rights still remain widely ignored and poorly enforced in China. Structural constrains, such as the state’s development strategy biased on efficiency over equity, tight labor markets, and the lack of an effective safety net, cannot fully explain why Chinese workers have had so little impact on the environment in which they work and the violations of their rights often occur. Using Marshall’s theory of citizenship rights, this article explores the structure of China’s labor rights for an explanation. It argues that while Chinese labor legislation stipulates workers’ individual rights regarding contracts, wages, working conditions, pensions, and so on, it fails to provide them with collective rights, namely the rights to organize, to strike, and to bargain collectively in a meaningful sense. The lack of collective rights is one of the major factors that render workers’ individual rights vulnerable, hollow, unenforceable, or often disregarded. Labor legislation that enables workers to act collectively is crucial for safeguarding their individual rights.

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