• Kyodo

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A two-week-old strike at Honda Motor Co.’s plant in Guangdong Province, China, reflects the undervaluation of labor in the country, which has seen wage hikes lagging behind the rate of economic growth, state media said Tuesday.

From 2002 to 2009, China’s gross domestic product grew at an average annual rate of about 10.1 percent, while income rose by about 8.2 percent each year, a commentary published by the official Xinhua news agency said.

More than two-thirds of employees earn less than the national average monthly salary of 2,152 yuan (about ¥28,700), with 17 percent of workers earning less than 1,000 yuan a month, it said.

Many firms have become “accustomed to taking advantage of cheap labor in their pursuits of profits,” the commentary added, but “economic development should not come at the price of the dignity of ordinary laborers.”

“The price of labor in China has indeed been twisted and much undervalued,” Chang Xiuze, a research fellow with the economic institute of the National Development and Reform Commission, was quoted as saying.

Honda said last week the strike at its auto parts subsidiary has forced stoppages at its four automobile assembly plants in the country.

Chinese workers at Honda Auto Parts Manufacturing Co., a wholly owned subsidiary located in Foshan, walked off the job May 17 demanding a hike in wages.

State media earlier quoted workers as saying that some at the plant earned as low as 900 yuan, below minimum wage. Reports also said workers were unhappy with what they viewed as unfair salary differences between Chinese and Japanese workers.

Recent events have put the wages and conditions of workers in China, the “world’s factory,” under the spotlight.

Ten employees of Taiwan-owned Foxconn Technology jumped to their deaths this year at the high-tech manufacturer’s plant in Longhua, Guangdong.

After the suicides, Foxconn’s parent, Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., announced late last month it will raise the wages at its Chinese unit by an average of 20 percent.

The government-linked All China Federation of Trade Unions issued guidelines Saturday calling on employers to improve wages, develop better relations with workers and pay attention to mental health problems, the Global Times said.

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