EU and China cooperate towards better work conditions

European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities and China’s Ambassador will meet in Brussels to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on health and safety at work.

he MoU will set up a structured dialogue covering issues of common interest in the field of health and safety at work. The dialogue aims to improve mutual understanding on health and safety through activities ranging from regular exchanges of information, legislation and best practice to joint studies, seminars and conferences. Annual review meetings will bring together senior officials from both sides. In addition, China and the EU are currently exploring the possibility of a substantial cooperation project to support the State Administration of Work Safety (SAWS) in their commitment to improve Chinese workers’ health and safety.

The signature follows recent cooperation between the EU and China in the field of coal mine safety, an area particularly emphasised in the MoU.

China produces around 40% of the world’s coal and it still represents the vast majority of all coal mine accidents in the world. Accidents in the industry are considered to be the second highest cause of accidental death in China, after road traffic accidents, with close to 6,000 deaths per year on average. The EU has a long experience in health and safety policy, particularly in the mining sector and will, among other things, provide expertise to support China in this area.

Background

One of the major objectives of the Commission’s 2007-2012 strategy on health and safety at work: “Improving quality and productivity at work”, is to promote health and safety at the international level.

SAWS is an agency directly under the State Council in China responsible for overall supervision and regulation of work safety. It also directly administers the State Administration of Coal Mine Safety.

Coal production has been declining continuously in the EU over recent decades, but China’s coal output is growing rapidly. Coal currently accounts for over 70 per cent of the total energy consumed in China.

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