BEIJING (AP) -- Labor-related lawsuits nearly doubled in China last year mainly due to mass factory shutdowns, a senior official with the Supreme Court said.
A manufacturing powerhouse, China's factories were hard hit when overseas demand for their exports evaporated in the wake of the global financial crisis.
Shen Deyong, vice president of the Supreme People's Court, said at a news conference Monday that the number of labor-related lawsuits filed in 2008 jumped 95 percent, marking the biggest on-year increase of any type of suit.
He said most of the cases were filed in the country's coastal southeast, home to a string of factory hubs. In some areas, labor suits increased about 200 percent compared to 2007, he said, without giving specific figures.
The spike in labor lawsuits was "closely connected to businesses slumping and factories being shut down," he said.
"When they face difficulties, these businesses often reduce their costs by cutting the labor force and salaries," he said.
He said a new labor contract law that came into effect at the start of last year and rising public awareness of worker's rights also contributed to the rise in cases.
Unemployment is a major concern for China's communist leadership because of fears it could trigger social unrest and demands for political reform.