HARD TIMES FOR MIGRANT WORKERS IN CHINA
Problems suffered by migrant workers include a lack of safety equipment, crowded and unhygienic dormitories, no medical care, arbitrary fines by bosses and late or unpaid wages. Human Rights Watch has said that laws set up to protect migrant workers from being cheated out of their wages and working in dangerous conditions are generally not enforced.
Migrant workers generally do not have access to public education, health care and other social services. They have a hard time finding affordable housing and often have to pay higher school fees that residents. Many migrants sleep in huts on dirt or concrete floors and take turns making meals on a gas stove. Sometime their beds are nothing more than blankets placed over some pieces of cardboard. Amnesty International said China’s “so-called economic miracle comes at a terrible human cost” to migrants attracted to the cities.
Half of all workers interviewed by Human Right Watch at construction sites in Beijing in 2007 and 2008 said they had not been paid their wages every month as is required by Chinese law and many had to wait until the end of the year to receive their pay and then received less than they were promised.
Migrants without proper paperwork are sometimes thrown into grim detention centers and remain there until their relatives or friends bail them out. Authorities have tried to evict millions of people from the cities. In 1995, for example, they gave the residents of one Beijing shantytown two weeks notice to move out and then bulldozed the entire place down. The shanty town had a population of 100,000, including 2,000 drug addicts. Beijing wanted to expel 1 million migrant workers from Beijing during the duration of the Olympics.
As income gaps widen and inflation takes its toll on the paltry incomes of big-city migrants, many workers are becoming increasingly bitter. “The system as it stands now is only feeding instability,” said Jia Xijin, a public policy expert at Tsinghua University. “Rural and urban residents contribute to our nation, and they both pay taxes. But they don’t equally benefit. The injustice is glaring.” [Source: Andrew Jacobs, New York Times August 29, 2011]
See Separate Articles: URBANIZATION AND URBAN POPULATION OF CHINA factsanddetails.com ; URBAN LIFE IN CHINA factsanddetails.com ; HUKOU (RESIDENCY CARDS) factsanddetails.com CITIES IN CHINA AND THEIR RAPID RISE factsanddetails.com ; MEGACITIES, METROPOLIS CLUSTERS, MODEL GREEN CITIES AND GHOST CITIES IN CHINA factsanddetails.com ; MASS URBANIZATION IN CHINA factsanddetails.com ; URBAN DEVELOPMENT AND DESTRUCTION OF THE OLD NEIGHBORHOODS IN CHINA factsanddetails.com ; HOME DEMOLITIONS AND EVICTIONS IN CHINA factsanddetails.com ; HOMELESS PEOPLE AND URBAN POVERTY IN CHINA factsanddetails.com ; MIGRANT WORKERS AND CHINA’S FLOATING POPULATION factsanddetails.com ; LIFE OF CHINESE MIGRANT WORKERS: HOUSING, HEALTH CARE AND SCHOOLS factsanddetails.com
Websites and Sources: Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; Hutongs in Beijing A good book on hutong life is “Last Days of Old Beijing: Life on the Vanished Backstreets of a City Transformed” by Micheal Meyer (Walker and Co., 2008). Web Sites on Hutongs Wikipedia ;China Highlights China Highlights ; Travel China Guide Travel China Guide Chinatown Connectionchinatownconnection.com ; China Dailychinadaily.com; 2009 New York Times article nytimes.com ; China Beat blog report thechinabeat.blogspot.com;
Hope and Despair of Chinese Migrants
Ian Johnson wrote in the New York Review of Books: “In one of the central scenes in Jia Zhangke’s 2013 film “A Touch of Sin.” , a young man working in the southern Chinese manufacturing city of Dongguan goes to an ATM and finds that he’s broke. He’s just spent the past month betraying his friends and hopping from job to job, including one as a tuxedoed servant in a brothel where he watched the woman he loves perform for clients. Standing in a daze in front of the bank, he gets a call from his mother, who harasses him for money and then berates him for having none. We see the man’s lips quiver and tears well up as he realizes that he has no one he can trust or love, no family, and no friends. A few hours later, he jumps out of the window of the huge housing block for migrant workers where he has been staying, and falls to his death. [Source: Ian Johnson, New York Review of Books, October 25, 2013]
Jia told the New York Times: “Aside from visual considerations, I feel it also addresses the mobility of Chinese people, those looking for life opportunities by moving. This is especially true of the young man from the interior going to Guangdong for temporary work and trying to change his life. In the process of moving, they are always hoping to find opportunities. But movement on this large a scale also highlights a big issue, which is the enormous geographic disparity of China. China’s resources are concentrated in the eastern developed regions and in the big cities, so people move to Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou. This has its own social problems. So I wanted to make a film that wasn’t just about one person and wasn’t in just one place. Rather, it would demonstrate China’s situation through this movement. [Source: Interview with Edward Wong, Sinosphere blog, New York Times, October 18 and 21 2013]
“I feel that most of the people I’ve met, such as the young people in Dongguan, when they first go to the south, to Dongguan, they’re full of hope and longing to change their lives. They have many dreams. But once they start to do the repetitive work and they start to really see what life is like, and as they become part of the manufacturing industry and get to know the city, they slowly begin to feel more and more despair. This despair is due to their income, their work, or maybe they feel oppressed by all this movement, and so lose hope. This hopelessness depresses their spirit. The reason so many of these kids jump off buildings has a lot to do with losing hope.
Peter Hessler wrote in National Geographic, ““One of my students’ mothers worked [in a factory] in Guangdong for 10 years, she came [back] to Luzhou last month. She was cheated out of her bank card and code … She lost 45,000 yuan [more than $7,200]. This was the money she saved in the past ten years. She wanted to use the money to build a new house and get prepared for her kids to go to college ... She went back home and cried for many days, and two days later, she ate mouse poison and died in bed. What a bad things. It is hard to imagine what 45,000 means for a country woman.” [Source: Peter Hessler, National Geographic, March 2013]
The migrant worker Zhao Er told Liao Yiwu in the book “The Corpse Walker: Real-Life Stories, China From the Bottom Up” he toiled as a farmer, in a wildcat coal mine, as a construction worker and a restaurant hand, and has slept in a plastic tent in Chengdu owned by an enterprising woman who barks on the sidewalk at dusk each day to pile in as many short-stay “tenants” as she can. “In the wintertime, when bodies are crammed in together, you get pretty warm,” Zhao says. ‘sometimes it's so warm that you sweat simply by blowing a fart.” Later he recounts the tale of a woman he knew from his village who masquerades as a shoeshine lady to cover for her real trade, prostitution. “I don't blame those poor women. Luckily my wife had three kids, otherwise, she would also be turned into a whore.” [Source: “The Corpse Walker: Real-Life Stories, China From the Bottom Up” by Liao Yiwu, from book review by Howard W. French in The Nation, August 4, 2008]
Violence and Migrant Workers in China
There are many stories of migrant factory workers being shaken down, beaten and even killed by brutal auxiliary police. Violence sometimes erupts after migrant workers are subjected to terrible working conditions and then are denied their pay. Push often comes to shove around the New Year holiday when it is time for workers to get their back wages and return home and see their families and they are told the money isn’t ready.
Some migrant workers have gone bezerk or committed suicide by leaping from the scaffolding the are working on at construction sites. A gang of migrant workers in southern China attacked their boss and his wife, broke their limbs with iron bats and tried to hack them with meat cleavers.
In 2005, a migrant worker killed four people after flying into a rage during a fight with his bosses after he was denied two years of back pay and beaten and mocked. He was tried for murder and quickly executed. His case became a hot topic on the Internet, with many people sympathetic to his plight and feeling he didn’t deserve to die. Before the man’s execution, a jailhouse employee said the worker said, “When I dead nobody can exploit me any more. Right?”
Occassionally the government cracks down on employers who deny migrant workers of their pay. In 2005 in Shenzhen eight company executives were jailed for withholding $890,500 owed to 1,200 workers
When the first waves came migrants were sometimes caught in police raids and herded into a large room with other migrants and kept there for several days until they were sent home. These days most are able to work openly without being bothered,
Migrant Worker Riots, See Police Abuse
Discrimination Towards Migrant Workers in China
Many migrants are treated as second class citizens and taken advantage of. New arrivals are frequently asked for their papers by the police who try to extract bribes; children and women are sometimes kidnaped and sold as prostitutes and wives for sale; and orphans are forced by organized crime gangs to panhandle money. Those that get jobs die or are maimed in grotesque industrial accidents or are locked in the dormitories at night.
Hsiao-Hung Pa wrote in The Guardian, “Nongmin is a permanent social status that entails someone's inferior educational and cultural background as well as economic capabilities. As a segregated social class, nongmin carry the subordinated status with them wherever they migrate. [Source: Hsiao-Hung Pa, The Guardian, August 25, 2012 |]
Tom Miller says in “China’s Urban Billion”, migrant workers are treated as illegal immigrants in their own country. Denied urban social security, schooling for their children and a range of perfectly ordinary urban jobs (supermarket cashier, for example), migrants without city hukou face a form of discrimination that leaves them nominally urban but trapped as near-non-consumers.
Migrant workers receive little sympathy. One Beijing man told Time magazine, "the bumpkins cause chaos. They should go home." Complaining about a group of ruddy cheeks migrants from the Sichuan province in dirty clothes and using a fertilizer sack for a suitcase, one woman in Beijing told the New York Times, "You can't wear your pretty clothes on the subway. By the time you get to work, your pretty clothes are filthy." One survey found that 85 percent of criminal suspects are migrants. One Guangzhou resident told the New York Times, that migrant workers “do bring crime. Unemployed people and uneducated people have to make a living, so they may resort to crime.”
In the town of Foshan, a group of Sichuan migrants scraped together some money and started a restaurant. When the migrants complained that some of the local people didn’t pay their bills, a mob surrounded the restaurant and beat up the migrants and drove them out of town. The migrants were then forced into the sex trade to make a living. Even though there were a number of sex-for-money rings the area and the penalties for engaging the practice were generally pretty light, a migrant who ran a ring was arrested and given the death penalty.
Prejudices Against Migrant Workers in China
People who have no residential papers, no apartment or job are often referred to as “black people.” In some places migrants are called "stick men" because they carry around bamboo poles with all their belongings on them. In Beijing the migrants are known as “waidren” ("outsiders") and they are blamed for an increase in petty crimes, drug addiction and bicycle theft. Many also blame migrant workers for China’s pollution and population woes. Although it is hard to pin China's pollution woes on them one study did find they are 13 times more likely to break family planning rules than permanent urban residents.
Hsiao-Hung Pa wrote in The Guardian, “Rural migrants continue to suffer from deep-seated prejudice and discrimination. Not only are they denied access to public services in the cities due to the hukou (household registration) system, they are also subjected to day-to-day exclusion and abuse. You see them being talked to and shouted at like children in public places; you see them banned from hotel lobbies and posh restaurants. And as an angry blogger pointed out when observing open discrimination against rural migrants, he said that the "No Dogs or Chinese" signs put up by western colonialists in the 1920s and 1930s have been replaced by the "No Dogs or Peasants" signs at shopping malls in the cities. How have these become acceptable? [Source: Hsiao-Hung Pa, The Guardian, August 25, 2012 |]
“And then see Chinese bloggers condemning migrant workers in Yunnan who held a protest with their children holding placards "Hand over my parents' sweat and blood money!" in order to claim back owed wages. One blogger sneered: "What kind of parent would let their kids beg money for them?" As China's rural migrants have had this class distinction stamped on them permanently, the only way their demands for social justice and equal rights can be justified is through the promotion of national economic interests and the greater good.” |
Negative Media Image of Migrant Workers in China
Hsiao-Hung Pa wrote in The Guardian, “Since Deng Xiaoping's reform and opening-up (gaige kaifang) era, the media has led the way in manufacturing images about rural migrants and reinforcing prejudice against them. The word "peasant" (nongmin) has always had negative connotations, either implying ignorance and lack of education or carrying a patronising tone, addressing passive masses receiving benevolence from the rulers. Since the 1980s and 1990s, the media began to widely use to the term "blind flow" (mangliu) to describe rural-to-urban migration, portraying an irrational, senseless and out-of-control migration of labour into the cities. This negative language has long shaped public views and sentiments towards rural migrants and further deepened the prejudice against them. | [Source: Hsiao-Hung Pa, The Guardian, August 25, 2012 |]
“I had a Chinese publisher questioning me about the dialogue I wrote for a rural migrant when he discussed politics. She said: "How can a peasant speak like that? They aren't intelligent enough to analyse things that way." I also had a Chinese reporter saying to me: "Don't trust what the peasants tell you; they would mislead you." Neither of them has had any experience working with anyone in the rural communities. |
“This raises the question about the media's distance and lack of knowledge of the "rural" of which social imagery they have been shaping. Interestingly, Owen Jones , in his Chavs: The Demonisation of the Working Class, talked about a similar process where the media lacks contact with and knowledge of the class they are belittling. The media take on the role of demonising the working class, Jones says, and providing moral justification for the state to deny that class of entitlements. |
“Similarly, the Chinese media manufacture "inherent" moral deficiency and characteristics of the nongmin in order to justify their lack of rights and entitlements. Thus the idea that nongmin are inherently much less intelligent and unable to make sense of their own reality; thus the idea that nongmin are "a blind flow of labour crowding into the cities" and they "create social and economic problems" for the urbanite. It is the equivalent of the Daily Mail in the UK – Jones quotes the Mail's remarks on the "council-estate working class": "These are the people who are getting sentimental about a vicious killer; they have no values, no morality and are so thick that they are beyond redemption." |
Demolition of Migrant Worker Slum in Shanghai
The China Economic Review reported: “In February and March 2014, “the Shanghai government leveled dozens of acres of two- and three-story slums just south of the city's historic Bund district. The shantytown, a few hundred meters from the Huangpu river that divides the metropolis, was home to some local Shanghainese, but the cheap rents pulled in thousands of migrant workers hailing from across China. The prime location also no doubt attracted major property developers eager to build on one of west Shanghai's last significant plots of riverfront land. It was only a matter of time before the old houses were torn down. [Source: China Economic Review, May 19, 2014 \^/]
The demolition has made many winners. Landowners in deals such as these walk away with great sums of money. The developers will hope to make an exponential return on the original investment in the land. Government officials in that jurisdiction probably took home a pretty penny in transaction fees. The losers were undeniably the migrants who lived in the rickety slums. Life in a Shanghai shantytown, which might be devoid of heating and plumbing, is by few measures comfortable. But cheap housing such as this underpins migrants' lives in a place where the average monthly rent can easily surpass a monthly wage and increases in property prices regularly outpace growth in incomes. \^/
Sudden, Mass Eviction of Migrant Workers from Beijing in 2017
In November 2017, hundreds of thousands of migrant workers were evicted from Beijing. Beijing officials launched an aggressive campaign to tear down apartment buildings and evict migrants from poorer sections of the city after a deadly fire. The New York Times described the areas affected as “reminiscent of war zones, with entire city blocks demolished, ” and left workers“abruptly homeless in midwinter.” The catch phrase embraced on the Internet to describe the victims of the evictions was “low-end population” (dīduān rénk u). When asked whether the campaign was really intended to drive out the “low-end population”, one city official said that it was “irresponsible” to use the phrase, and insisted, “there is no saying like ‘low-end population.” [Source: Lucas Niewenhuis, Sup China (November 30, 2017] [Source: Austin Ramzy, New York Times, December 13, 2017; The Guardian]
Officials had earlier targeted reducing the population of the downtown districts of Beijing by 15 percent from 2014 levels between 2017 and 2019. If that goal was achieved it would shrink the population of that area by two million people. Authorities also said they planned to demolish 40 million square meters of illegal housing. Jeremy Goldkorn wrote in Sup China: “The purge is part of a long-term plan to reduce the population of Beijing, develop the economies of surrounding areas, reduce traffic congestion, and clean up the center of the city. All of these aims make sense. But what was shocking was that the Beijing authorities used a deadly fire as a reason for harsh safety inspections, and evictions with just a couple of days’ notice. Outrage on the internet was suppressed with very thorough censorship. [Source: Jeremy Goldkorn, Sup China, December 1, 2017]
Benjamin Haas wrote in The Guardian: “The latest round of evictions began in the wake of a fire on 18 November that killed 19 people in an industrial neighbourhood in south Beijing, and 17 of the victims were migrants. City officials have declared a 40-day campaign against “illegal structures”, which for years have housed the millions of migrant workers who run Beijing’s restaurants, delivery companies, construction sites, retail shops and a host of small factories.” [Source: Benjamin Haas, The Guardian, November 26, 2017]
An “open letter, which was addressed to the country’s leadership and circulated on Chinese social media, called the evictions “a serious trampling of human rights”. Signatories included professors, researchers, poets and artists and more names continued to be added. “It criticised the lack of due process and rapid speed at which the campaign was being implemented. Videos and photos posted on social media showed streets clogged with clothes and other belongings after migrants were given just minutes to pack up.
“Many who had lived in the Chinese capital for years were only allowed to take what they could carry before police sealed entire buildings. Authorities reportedly cut water and electrical service in some cases. “Any civilised and law abiding society cannot tolerate this, we must clearly condemn and oppose these actions, ” the letter said. The haphazard nature of the mass evictions make it difficult to determine exactly how many people have been displaced. Migrants are being forced from their homes at the start of Beijing’s winter and temperature have hovered around freezing.
Control of Rural Migrants in Beijing
Andrew Jacobs wrote in the New York Times the high numbers of migrants to the cities “worry the governing Communist Party, which has a particular aversion to the specter of urban slums and their potential as cauldrons for social instability. ..To manage the huge population flows “and its own fears “the government relies on an internal passport and registration system dating from the Mao years that ties access to education, health care and pensions to the birthplace of a person’s parent. The hukou system, as it is called, has created a two-tiered population in many Chinese cities: those with legal residency and those without. [Source: Andrew Jacobs, New York Times August 29, 2011]
Obtaining an urban residence permit, called a hukou, is possible only for those with deep pockets or top-notch connections, so struggling migrants live in a gray zone of pay-as-you-go medical care, dingy rented rooms and unregistered schools where the education is middling at best. Byzantine property ownership and bank-loan rules mean that most rural hukou holders are frozen out of the housing market even if they can afford a down payment on an apartment.
Migrant Workers and Politics
In August 2012, the government-endorsed China Daily reported: "The 230 million-strong migrant workforce drives China's economy, but a lack of access to education, health and other services … forces massive saving, restraining Beijing's efforts to shift growth's focus to consumption from investment."
In the early days many migrant workers were rounded up and held in crowded detention centers if the lacked the proper paperwork. These days many have residency permits and have been able to establish themselves and their families, without harassment.
Migrant workers have been allowed to serve as deputies in local people’s congresses. This is seen as a sign that Beijing is being responsive to grassroots needs.
In September 2008, thousands of migrant workers rioted and clashed with police in the city of Ningpo after the injury of a worker at a local factory.
Leo Lewis wrote in The Times: “Played shrewdly, and with a bit of swift, well-aimed land reform and a shake-up of the system, these 250 million become genuine participants in the biggest and most economically transformational migration in history. Played badly, the same 250 million (and possibly more) become a permanent underclass, gaping helplessly at China’s skyscrapers from slums that expand to host a population the size of Britain, France, Germany and Spain combined. The problem is made worse, Tom Miller writes in “China’s Urban Billion” by urban planners’ “impoverished view of modernity”, which demands that the past be obliterated to make way for the new. China’s cities will continue to shock and awe, he argues, but will struggle to inspire hearts and minds, a challenge made even tougher if the new cities retain their halo of filthy air (another symptom of poorly planned urbanisation). [Source: Leo Lewis, The Times, January 22, 2013]
Migrant Workers and the Economic Crisis in 2008 and 2009
The global financial crisis in 2008 and 2009 has been particularly hard on cheap labor and migrant labor. Many laborers and workers have lost their jobs as factories have cut back their work forces. One laid-off migrant at a machinery factory in Fujian Province whose foreign orders dried up told AFP, “We really don’t know what to do. We can’t go home, but there are few jobs here and they don’t pay enough.”
As of February 2009 the Chinese government said 20 million migrant workers lost their jobs or couldn’t find one because of the economic crisis. The 20 million figure was announced in February was triple the 6 million figure released a month before. Even then many people think it was an underestimate. In many villages most of the workers that had left had returned home.
In some cities unemployed migrant workers stood in lines in the street with signs that listed their job skills and jobs they wanted. Rumors circulated of job offerings. Some workers could afford the latest cell phones and other amenities from relatively well-paying jobs found themselves sleeping on sidewalks and waiting in line at soup kitchens for meals.
Some returned to their villages, humiliated. Others returned to their villages to find their farmland had been sold off to make room for developments. One worker who stayed in the city told Reuter, “I could go back to my farm but there is really nothing to do there. The wheat is already planted, and it’s another three months before the harvest.
Bus and trains that normally were full carrying peasants to southern China to work now are filled heading the other way. Many migrants stood with their possessions nearly the entire ride home because there were no seats. One former migrant worker who stepped on the platform after a 31-hour train ride from Guangzhou to Chengdu told Reuters, “Lots of factories have closed. Mine shut about three months ago. There was nothing to do, so I came home.” Another told the Washington Post, “Of course I’m going back...few stay here and farm, we can eat but we make no money for anything else. At least back there there is the possibility of work when things get better.”
the trend was expected to an economic boon for the provinces as workers stayed there are didn’t head south,. One manager in Chengdu told Reuters, “We are seeing quite a few good, talented people come our way from Guangdong, people with country experience and skills, It’s bug help for us.”
The government fearing unrest went on high alert. They promised to hand out money to people to start new businesses in their hometowns. Workers were also encouraged to head to earthquake-devastated area of Sichuan where workers were needed. Local governments set up job placement centers and gave advice on where to find jobs.
Migrant Teenager Demands Her Right to Attend High School in Shanghai
A Chinese teenager named Zhan Haite become a cause célèbre among activists pressing for reform of hukou system as she demanded a chance enter a Shanghai high school. Bloomberg reported: “A 15-year-old girl’s wish to go to school in Shanghai has landed her father in jail and sparked a national debate over a national-registration policy that deprives millions of Chinese of basic rights. Zhan Haite’s parents left their home in Jiangxi in 1994, first for Zhuhai in the south, and later headed northeast to Shanghai, in 2002. Under the hukou system they’re still registered in Jiangxi, and can’t automatically get benefits such as social security and access to local schools for their three children anywhere else. After attending primary and junior schools in Shanghai, Zhan was rejected from high school.[Source: Bloomberg News, December 17, 2012 |+|]
“The case is receiving national media coverage with the photogenic teenager’s outspoken description of her situation. Zhan said in an interview that “I have the right to a free education, but now that freedom is being deprived to me. Naturally, I am going to fight for it.” After Zhan Haite was told China’s internal passport system blocked her from attending the school she wanted, she protested online and in public, triggering a reaction that included the landlord ordering her family to move. Zhan said she decided to go public after officials “kicked the case to each other like a ball.” Her story has been widely publicized in state media, a signal that party leaders may be willing to unwind the hukou system. |+|
“China Central Television, the state broadcaster, aired a story about Zhan’s protest, sending a signal to the country’s 1.3 billion people that the government may be preparing to tackle the hukou issue. “Certainly this was not an accidental thing,” said Willy Wo-Lap Lam, an adjunct professor of history at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. “It’s a case of the top leadership using the media to get support from the general public and also to put pressure on these provincial leaders who are opposed to hukou reform.” |+|
“Zhan’s family got into trouble with the authorities once she took her appeal public and organized a demonstration. On Dec. 8, Zhan, her father and other families with children facing the same situation went to People’s Square in Shanghai and unfurled a banner that read “Love the motherland, love children.” Her father, Zhan Quanxi, who installs phones for companies in the city, was detained for allegedly scratching a police officer, and her account was suspended on Weibo, China’s equivalent of Twitter. Her father was released from detention last week after his charge was downgraded. |+|
“In an interview at the undecorated, two-bedroom apartment that her family rents, Zhan said her landlord broke their lease and is forcing them to move out within two months. Her mother, Liu Xinhua, looked after Zhan’s younger brother and sister as she listened to her daughter. “She knows much more than me,” said Liu, who wrote to Premier Wen Jiabao and President Hu Jintao at her daughter’s request. “Haite did everything herself to demand her rights.”Zhan said her family will fight to remain in Shanghai. The English-language China Daily published a commentary she wrote in which she said “all children should have the same right to an education.” She’s now studying English by reading books such as President Barack Obama’s “Dreams From My Father.” |+|
“Zhan said she no longer looks at her Weibo account, where she’s been criticized by Internet users who say she ought to return to Jiangxi instead of trying to study in Shanghai. One user called her “too greedy” and said her family were “locusts.” “They don’t understand that I am just doing this to protect my rights,” Zhan said. “They will understand me when they realize they’re living shackled in cages, just like me.”“ |+|
Help for Migrant Workers
In a major speech marking the opening of National People’s Congress in March 2010, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao promised to ease rules denying public welfare services to millions of migrant workers and do more to met the social security need of China’s poor. He pledged to reform the increasingly unpopular household registration , or “hukou”, system under which a citizen’s residency is strictly tied to one’s hometown. [Source: AFP]
Under the household registration , or “hukou”, system China’s 230 million migrant workers are denied access to basic welfare and public services like health insurance and unemployment benefits and raises obstacles to getting decent housing and jobs. The mention of reforming the system in a speech by Wen means that it had become a top government priority. Behind the reforms are worries by the government that opposition to the system could produce unrest and the fact that a lack of public services forces people to save for social welfare, discouraging them from spending, which is what the government wants to boost the economy. Editorials in state-tun newspapers have called the “hukou” system a form or “segregation” and said it ‘shackle’s the people’s rights.”
Hsiao-Hung Pa wrote in The Guardian, “On China's Valentine's Day (the seventh day of the seventh lunar month in the Chinese calendar, which fell on 23 August this year), 30 migrant workers were taken by surprise when they were invited to a business networking dinner by several college students in Shanghai who, during their summer internships, had happened to see the migrants' miserable working life on the city's construction sites. The move by the students, who wore T-shirts saying "Invite a Migrant Worker to a Meal" was televised as a primetime entertainment. [Source: Hsiao-Hung Pa, The Guardian, August 25, 2012 |]
Image Sources: Beifan.com, China Labor Watch, Cgstock.com http://www.cgstock.com/china
Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.
Last updated October 2021