Dramatic demonstrations to ask for back wages, especially among construction workers, have attracted much attention. This paper is intended to explore the mechanism behind these demonstrations. Government and capital have reached a kind of tacit agreement centering on informal economic practices. In the opposition between capital and migrant workers, the lack of unified labor action places the latter at a disadvantage when bargaining with the former. The informal economy and its practices have encouraged capital to delay the payment of wages and have rendered the state’s labor laws largely ineffective, leaving migrant workers little choice but to go outside the law to protest. Multilayered subcontracting in the construction industry has aggravated delays in the payment of wages and has made it more difficult for workers to obtain payment. The subsistence pressures faced by the workers in their growing proletarianization have driven them to demand payment. The state’s insistence on stability, capital’s preoccupation with “rational” profit-seeking, and the elitism that currently dominates popular culture have together shaped the form of the dramatic demonstrations. To solve this problem at its root, workers’ self-organizing to change their disadvantaged status might offer a way out—something the government should encourage and support in order to maintain social stability.
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