Netizens call for improved worker well-being

Updated: 2012-11-12 21:55

BEIJING - As China now claims to have one of the world's largest populations of workers, the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC) has an issue to tackle: improving the well-being of the country's workers.

Netizens' calls, especially those from grassroots communities, are showing a longing for better lives amid expectations that the ongoing 18th CPC National Congress will work out a roadmap to guide the country in the coming decade.

A recent online survey conducted among over 10,000 netizens by the China Youth Daily Social Survey Center shows that the top three areas in which people anticipate improvements are healthcare, education and food safety.

While delivering a political report at the opening of the congress, Hu Jintao pledged to build "a moderately prosperous society in all respects by 2020," trying to ensure that all people have access to "employment, medical and old-age care and housing."

Mark Obama, half-brother of US President Barack Obama, works in the southern city of Guangzhou. He told Xinhua, "There is an American dream and also a Chinese dream. They all have very similar things: they are about having a family, having a good job."

Hu called such a Chinese dream a "grand goal," as the CPC faces challenges in a populous country undergoing rapid changes in its social structure.

For a long time, rural people made up majority of the Chinese population. With a hammer and a sickle in its emblem, the CPC has vowed since its founding to represent the interests of both the hammer-typified workers and the sickle-typified farmers.

In 2011, China's urbanization rate stood at 51.3 percent, marking that the urban population outnumbered the rural for the first time.

The farmer-turned workers' social mobility seen over the past 30 years unleashed a formidable vitality that has lifted millions out of poverty and built China into an economic powerhouse.

The rapid influx of rural migrants to cities, however, has left the urban social security network weak in the elbows.

In China, 252 million migrant workers don't have the same social welfare benefits in terms of old-age pension, healthcare, education and housing as their urban-born peers.

They have little access to the urban pension program, and their children are in general not allowed admission to urban schools.

The high incidence of occupational diseases also ranks among their woes. China reported more than 27,000 new cases of work-related illnesses in 2010, according to latest figures from the Ministry of Health.

The difficulties migrant workers face in being diagnosed and obtaining compensation make matters worse, as migrant workers who contract diseases are not usually covered by the urban healthcare system.

"Saodidetanglaoba," a street sweeper as well as a popular microblogger on Sina Weibo, wrote, "Is there a street sweeper delegate to the congress? Has any delegate said something about our sanitation workers?"

Tang did not know that Ren Xiaoyun, also a street sweeper, is one of the 26 migrant worker delegates to the congress. These delegates account for slightly more than 1 percent of the total delegates.

Ju Xiaolin, another rural migrant worker delegate, said, "Migrant workers are an essential part of modern industrial workers. I called for more protection for us, allowing us to share fruits of economic development."

"Unequal public services rank as a big systematic obstacle that isolates migrant workers from city residents," South Reviews magazine commented on Weibo.

In the past ten years, a new cooperative medical system has been built to cover the rural population, Zhang Ping, one of China's chief economic planners, told a press conference on Saturday.

"Building up a high-standard social security network in the most populous country is really unprecedented," "" commented online.