Asia / Pacific
This is the biggest and most populated region of the world, even if we exclude the Middle East. It contains the two dynamos of economic growth – India and China. These two countries together account for 35.5% of the world’s population and 47% of global GDP.
Much of India’s legislation still dates back to the colonial era and only recently have there been concerted steps to modernise key statutes. The rule of law in China has been given greater importance under the current President and many poorly regulated practices such as the use of despatched workers and length of the working week are now being generally enforced in Chinese-owned enterprises. Australia is still recovering from problems with the labour hire industry and report of the Royal Commission into trade union governance and corruption. The Fair Work Act continues to be a key framework for establishing terms and conditions for workers in Australia. In Singapore recent reforms have made labour law more employer-friendly, but also imposed new obligations such as giving employees itemised payslips and the right to have their employment terms in writing. In Taiwan amendments to the Labour Standards Act are increasing the cap on monthly overtime hours and allowing compensation by way of time off in lieu.
Much of the recent focus of employment law developments across Asia have concerned the operation of contract labour, temporary employees, the emergence of the gig economy and phenomenon of overwork. In spite of Supreme Court pronouncements equal pay practices in India barely touch the wages received by temporary workers. In the Philippines labour-only contracting is prohibited by law, but the practice remains widespread. In China the law does not officially recognise self-employed contractors. However, the courts have made distinctions between contractors and employment relationships and accepted that the latter may be valid. In Japan the thorny issue remains overwork and it will be sometime before the culture relaxes to a point that employees are willing to work effectively over shorter periods.