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Migrant workers will be better protected
By Zheng Caixiong (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-03-11 09:47

As deputies to the National People's Congress in Beijing discuss a Constitutional amendment to protect human rights, South China's Guangdong Province plans to safeguard the rights of more than 23 million migrant workers and their families in the province.

China Daily has learned that the province will take measures to ensure the floating population enjoy the same status as locals for education and medical insurance; and that they be able to apply for passports for travel abroad and licences for starting businesses.

The floating population, like those in other cities in the country, refers to those who are not entitled to be registered as permanent residents in accordance with current laws and regulations.

Guangdong has more than 23.3 million temporary residents, compared with about 78.5 million permanent residents.

The core of current urban residency rules, which have been in force since the People's Republic was founded in 1949, is essentially to keep farmers from entering cities and have the same status as permanent residents.

Zhang Yongqiang, deputy director of the Guangdong Provincial Bureau of Public Security, said the procedure for applying for temporary resident certificates, or the official ID for floating population to live in cities, will be simplified.

Many experts advocate that the reform should ultimately ensure that anyone who has legal residence in a city should be regarded as a resident of the city and should be treated so.

Recently, a number of local People's Congress deputies and members of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference have suggested the scrapping of temporary resident certificates, which many complain actually lead to discrimination against people from outside the province.

Zhang admitted that the province would not scrap the system for temporary resident certificate in the near future despite the intense pressure to do so.

"The temporary resident certificate system is still an effective way to help manage the people from outside the province," Zhang said.

For the next step of the reform, the province will establish a five-tier system to strengthen the management of the growing numbers of migrant workers.

In addition to a special leading group for managing the floating population at the provincial level, all neighbourhoods, townships, counties and cities in the province will be required to set up special offices, departments and organizations to handle the issue.

Guangdong Governor Li Ronggen will head the provincial leading group established late last month.

The members include senior government officials and experts from the provincial bureaux and departments of public security, family planning, construction, taxation, civil affairs, public health, justice, finance, labour and social security, prices, industrial and commercial administration, trade unions and the Communist Youth League.

According to Zhang Yongqiang, the special offices and departments will offer better services to the floating population and further protect their legal rights.

Zhang said yesterday Guangdong would set up a special fund and employ dedicated personnel to work in the special offices and departments this year.

Estimates indicate that the floating population is proportionally higher in the province's cities compared with others in the country. More than 80 per cent of the province's floating population live in Guangzhou, the provincial capital, Shenzhen Special Economic Zone, Dongguan and Foshan.

While migrant workers have contributed to the province's economic growth, criminal cases involving people from outside have also risen in recent years, Zhang said.

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