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Rural-to-town labour force on the rise

China Daily

The ranks of workers migrating from rural areas swelled to 94 million last year, up 4.7 million over 2001, according to statistics released by the Ministry of Agriculture.

The statistics are based on a survey organized by the Agriculture Policy and Regulation Department under the ministry.

According to the survey of 20,000 rural households in 319 villages, 19.37 out of every 100 labourers were migrant workers last year, 1 per cent higher than in 2001. Among the migrant workers, 21.73 per cent were working away from home for the first time.

Calculated using this sample figure, the number of migrant workers in 2002 was estimated at 94 million.

The per-capita annual income of migrant workers was 5,597 yuan (US$674.3), an increase of 1.7 per cent, or 94.4 yuan (US$11.37), over 2001. These workers altogether earned 527.8 billion yuan (US$63.6 billion) in 2002, of which 327.4 billion yuan (US$39.4 billion) was posted home to their families.

Analysis revealed that the characteristics of the migrant workers in 2002 were as follows:

The proportion of male workers stood at 70.11 per cent, slightly higher than the previous year.

Age was another distinguishing point. The average age of migrant workers was 33.4. For workers who stayed close to their home counties, who worked outside their counties but stayed inside the province, or who worked outside the province, the average age was 36.8, 30.6 and 28.1 respectively.

The number of migrant workers working outside their provinces decreased over the year before, dropping by 7 per cent. This indicates that the development of the rural economy has had a great impact on the transfer of surplus rural labour forces.

Southeast and East China's Guangdong, Fujian, Zhejiang, and Jiangsu provinces, as well as Shanghai Municipality, still top the list of migrant workers' destinations.

The number of workers who headed to Guangdong and Fujian was 38.29 per cent, a little higher than in 2001. Zhejiang, Jiangsu and Shanghai hosted 16.88 per cent of the workers, and Beijing and Tianjin attracted 10.23 per cent. Workers who went to the northwest and abroad accounted for 7.89 per cent and 1.2 per cent respectively.

The education level of the migrant workers tended to be higher than the remaining rural labour force's common level.

Workers with a junior high school education accounted for 59.5 per cent of the migrant labourers, 16 per cent higher than the common rural level. In addition, the number of migrant workers with a senior high school education was 4.3 per cent higher than the general level, accounting for 12.6 per cent of the total.

Those who are illiterate and semi-literate accounted for 11.1 of the rural population, and those who possess only a primary school education accounted for 37.1 per cent. But among migrant workers the proportion was 4.1 per cent and 23.8 per cent.

Concerning duration and place, the research shows that migrant workers' situations had become more and more stable, and that the average worker spent 8.9 months away from home.

Workers who spent more than 10 months away accounted for 57.8 per cent.

Most of the migrant workers, 67 per cent, were concentrated in manufacturing, construction, and the food and service sectors. The distribution was 28.3 in manufacturing, 20.5 in construction and 18.3 per cent in food and service.

There is a large distribution differential between male and female workers. Among male workers, 27 per cent were in construction and 25.3 per cent were in manufacturing, while female workers were concentrated in manufacturing and food service, at 35.4 per cent and 27.8 per cent.

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