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Migrant workers' plight causes concern
By Wang Shanshan (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-03-07 06:21

Migrant worker Wang Jinjun, 18, did not get paid for six months' work at a Beijing construction site a year ago.

He is now reluctant to take up a similar job in case the same fate awaits him.

Such stories of migrant workers are legion in China.

But what Wang was probably unaware of yesterday was that the plight of people like him was a major concern for China's top legislators and political advisers at their annual meetings.

Wang left his job a year ago after his sister, who works as a housemaid in the city, gave him the 200 yuan (US$24) train fare home - a village near Rongcheng city in East China's Shandong Province.

Now, his parents want him to join his cousin at a construction site in Yantai, also in Shandong.

"Who knows if I will be cheated once more? This time I only wish I can buy the ticket back home on my own," he said.

The protection of migrant workers' rights is a hot topic at ongoing panel discussions of deputies of the 10th NPC and also of members of the National Committee of the CPPCC.

The issue was also noted by Premier Wen Jiaobao when he announced on Saturday in his annual work report that the government is committed to building a harmonious society.

"A mechanism will be promptly set up to ensure migrant workers in cities get paid on time and in full, and the work of getting their back wages paid to them will be continued," Premier Wen said.

NPC deputy Ji Jinshan said: "A special law should be made to protect the rights of the about 140 million migrants in major cities in China.

"The absence of strong and enforceable legal instruments has been a big barrier to protect migrants' rights, for example, to ensure that they get paid. The current Employment Law offers little protection to this special group of people," he added.

CPPCC National Committee member Li Youwei wants more than legislation - he wants urban residents to develop a sense of moral obligation towards migrant workers and stop discriminating against them.

"The migrant workers are very marginalized and have the potential to become an increasingly isolated social group if the discrimination continues," Li warned.

CPPCC National Committee member Cao Hongming lodged a proposal that migrant workers be included in the urban social security system because such a system has not been set up in rural areas.

NPC deputy Li Yin urged that the government subsidize schools admitting children of migrant workers so that the children can complete the nine-year compulsory education.

"We must bear in mind that the migrant workers have become such a strong labour force that they are a major factor in the urban economy. Businesses in Guangdong are realizing the fact as they face a shortage of workers," said CPPCC National Committee member Tan Jianguang from Guangdong.

(China Daily 03/07/2005 page2)

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