Private employers in China are breaking the rights of employees, with 80% of firms not signing contracts with workers, a government survey says.
Staff may not always have watertight work contracts
Many contracts only protect employer rights and outline the obligations of staff, said the China Daily newspaper.
There are more than two million private firms in China, many foreign-owned or joint ventures with overseas investors.
Workers were most exploited in the real estate, light industry, clothing and catering sectors, the government said.
However, those working in the dangerous private mining sector also have few rights, while death and workplace injury are commonplace occurrences.
Mineworkers in China endure the most deadly conditions. More than 6,000 of them died in accidents last year, according to government statistics.
Regional politicians and authorities are accused of turning a blind eye to violations by profit-driven mine owners, despite state efforts to improve safety.
Many workplace contracts state that a firm holds no responsibility in the event of an worker suffering illness or injury in the workplace.
China's top legislative body, the National People's Congress, has studied 2,000 companies and have now presented their findings.
"The legal rights of employees were frequently violated in more than 80% of private companies," the state-owned China Daily quoted standing committee vice-chairwoman He Luli.
Contracts between bosses and workers should be mandatory under a 1995 labour law, but most firms ignore the rules, leaving staff with no rights to medical treatment or adequate pension funds.
Meanwhile, jobs of any type are often hard to find, as the number of unemployed urban Chinese is expected to rise to 17 million next year, and there is currently a pool of 150 million surplus workers in rural areas, said the China Daily.