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Close rural-urban benefit gap to safeguard migrants' rights

China Daily | Updated: 2017-11-30 07:14

Only 17 percent of migrant workers living in Chinese cities have urban medical insurance, and the number has been on a downward trend over the past few years, according to a report. Beijing Youth Daily commented on Wednesday:

The fact that most migrant workers receive medical treatment entirely at their own expense points to several loopholes in the nationwide medical insurance system. As of last year, there were more than 282 million migrant workers in cities across the country. They account for about 20 percent of the population and 35 percent of the labor force. And they are an indispensable part of the urban economy.

As China is striving to establish a more extensive and inclusive medical insurance system that covers both urban and rural residents, most of the migrant workers have access to a new-type of rural cooperative medical care for rural residents. But there are procedural difficulties that make migrant workers struggle to get reimbursed the money they spend on medical treatment in places where they work. And the medical insurance for rural residents covers about 56 percent of their medical costs, while the reimbursement amount for urban residents is more than 72 percent.

It is unfair that most migrant workers in cities are not covered by urban medical insurance plans, because either they are not aware of the importance of such insurance or their employers refuse to sign them up for the insurance plans. Even if they are able to reimburse their medical expenses in cities, the subsidized proportion would still be 16 percent less than local citizens.

The rural-urban reimbursement gap may apply to other social insurance programs such as unemployment, work injury, maternity and elderly care. A uniform medical insurance system that treats rural and urban residents equally would be a good way to start narrowing the benefit divide.

It is also important to talk sense into migrant workers who refuse to join the medical insurance plans simply because they find not having contributions deducted from their wages more appealing. They should be made aware that equal access to medical insurance is not an "expendable right" but a guarantee of their personal well-being in the long run. Employers who do not include migrant workers in social insurance schemes must be held accountable.


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