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Labour Management: Chinese Harnessing Convict Expatriates

Labour Management: Chinese Harnessing Convict Expatriates

Entrance of a Nigerian Prison

The expanding range of China’s economic advancement has provoked the most recent attention to China as an emerging superpower but one factor was unearthed last week as our correspondent discovered how Chinese companies maximize or exploit its human resources.

A Chinese source who works with the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) told MMS Plus that most of the Chinese expatriates in Africa were convicts with special skills trained to work for the country and major organizations for gratis rather than jettisoned in prisons.

The source who pleaded anonymity stated that the convicts would rather work for the country with only provisions for food and shelter than remain in jail, adding that the practice was more common in developing countries.

“As Chinese firms are building dams, railways, roads, buildings and other infrastructure, often in exchange for oil and precious minerals, thousands of workers employed are prisoners, on conditional release” he said.

According to Brahma Chellaney, Professor of strategic studies at the Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi, “Chinese firms who create works abroad prefer to hire a low number of local workers, especially for labour, and bring most workers from China. The detainees “released” on parole lead normal lives of Chinese workers in these places: the live near the workplace, they mix among themselves, and have little chance to flee in a foreign country”

While reports state that these prisoners are all volunteers, experts believe that the system is favoured by Beijing: Chinese firms involved in these projects are generally state owned and could not, by themselves, convince many prisoners and take on responsibility, obtain passports or visas for foreign travel for all.

Although the prisoners are used for cheap labour, the advantages are that they accept longer and harder working hours compared to local workers, and do not create problems related to wages or unions or safety standards.

Nigeria can adopt this efficient use of human resources although the ability of the Nigerian Prisons Service (NPS) to manage and track these convicts outside the prisons could be debatable.

The NPS at Plateau Command said 400 bags of rice were harvested from its farm located at Lakushi area of the state in 2017.

NPS Plateau Command’s Public Relations Officer, Mr. Luka Ayedoo, who attributed the bumper harvest to the farm’s reorganisation by the NPS leadership, noted that the service ventured into rice farming to complement the present administration’s economic diversification policy.

“The Lakushi farm is one of the 17 prison farms that are into rice production and because of its comparative advantage and the recent repositioning, we have harvested 400 bags of rice from it this year. It is our determination to key into the Federal Government’s diversification plans, by improving agricultural activities even within our various formations. The farm is already living up to its expectation of supporting prisoners’ rehabilitation and reintegration through enhanced modern skills/training in farming techniques, and has kick-started the Nigerian Prisons’ drive towards self-sufficiency,” he said.

Indeed Nigeria could emulate this Chinese strategy to efficiently harnessed available human resources. Who say prisoners can’t be productive?

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