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Country workers flood urban job markets
By Fu Jing (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-02-23 09:13

Some six out of 10 workers in China are from the countryside, according to a survey made public by the Chinese Federation of Enterprises over the weekend.

The survey, which investigated 1,000 companies nationwide, said that 57.6 per cent of Chinese workers came from rural areas.

The federation called for more measures to make these migrant workers live and work with ease in cities. Some officials and researchers suggested calling off barriers such as household registration systems and offering schooling for children of these workers, ensuring that migrant citizens can integrate into city life.

Lin Yueqin, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said more efforts should be put into reforming China's household registration system, enabling migrant workers to reside in cities and become local residents.

Lin said that migrants should have the right to decide where to live.

"If they think the cost of living in cities is too high, they will move back to the villages," he said.

Chen Hao, a Ministry of Public Security official, said the central government is considering stepping up packages of measures to help China's huge number of migrant workers settle down in urban areas. Chen said there is a possibility that migrants will soon be able to freely register to reside in 80 per cent of 660 cities nationwide, and those with too large of a population won't adopt the measure.

Chen said the effort is aimed at reforming the country's rigid household registration system.

Lin said that since the country started transforming to a market economy in the late 1970s, more and more people have left their hometowns for cities to work or do business.

Problems then emerged as outsiders, who totalled some 98 million as of the end of last year, were denied equal access to work, education, housing and other social rights enjoyed by locals.

Lin was more concerned about the education of their children, as millions of rural labourers move to cities for work.

Despite the contributions of migrant families to urban construction, however, schooling for their children in cities receives little attention, largely because of the lingering residency registration system, said Lin.

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