China is investing heavily in Central Asia as part of its Belt & Road Initiative (BRI). Money is pouring into Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan to fund a wide variety of infrastructure projects. This report asks: What is the effect of the BRI on working people in these countries?

This study looks at the impact of Chinese investments on workers’ rights due to the increasing need to analyse the potential implications and challenges of the BRI projects, to facilitate trade union debate in the Central Asian Countries and the Global Labour Community.

In particular this study asks, how are human and labour rights being or affected?

For example, according to the ITUC Global Rights Index 20201 Kazakhstan remains among the world’s top 10 worst countries for working people, while there is insufficient comparable data on the labour rights situation in the other three countries, but different reports from human rights communities reveal endemic violations of fundamental freedoms and rights.

Furthermore, China itself belongs to group 5 in the ITUC Global Rights Index where countries are defined as having ‘no guarantee of rights’.

Therefore, is the arrival of Chinese companies and Chinese money into Central Asia posing further risks to working conditions, social partnership in general, freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining?

Belt & Road Initiative in Central Asia
Author: Harri Taliga, International Trade Union Confederation 2021.