Step forward for migrants

Updated: 2012-03-22 08:15

(China Daily)

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That 1.5 million farmers-turned-workers in Beijing will enjoy the same healthcare coverage as their urban counterparts starting April 1, is a significant step forward for efforts to realize the integration of this particular group of laborers into cities.

According to the policy proposal released by the Beijing municipal bureau of human resources and social security on Monday, migrant workers with valid employment contracts in the city will receive their own social security cards, which are required for medical treatment, and their healthcare insurance will be extended to cover non-critical conditions.

Meanwhile, employers' contributions to their workers' healthcare insurance will increase from 1 percent to 10 percent of the base amount of their income. That means, taking last year's average monthly wage in the city as an example, employers' healthcare contributions will increase from 25.2 yuan ($4) to 168 yuan.

The stark contrast between the discrimination the country's 252 million farmers-turned-workers face in the cities where they live and work and the contributions they have made to economic growth is all too obvious.

The policy barriers preventing them from sending their children to the same schools as the children of their urban counterparts, from applying for low-rent and other types of social welfare homes, and from enjoying the other social benefits enjoyed by urban hukou holders, are not only unfair, they are against the principle of an inclusive society and should be removed as early as possible.

Improving the quality of life for these migrant workers, by granting them the same status as urban residents, will increase their capability and willingness to consume - something China needs if it is to sustain its economic growth in the future.

The central government is well aware that this is one of the major defects of China's urbanization and that it must be addressed.

In Premier Wen Jiabao's government work report early this month, gradually integrating farmers-turned-workers into urban societies was listed as one of the key tasks for the government. Beijing's move is an initial step toward accomplishing that task and sets a good example for the rest of the country.

But if anything, instead of piecemeal moves, a clear policy roadmap is needed to better facilitate this task.

(China Daily 03/22/2012 page8)