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China to facilitate free flow of migrant workers
Updated: 2004-04-30 11:08

Farmers may find it easier to become urbanites now, as China has been committed to breaking the barriers that stopped rural workers from coming to the cities previously.

Statistics from the Ministry of Labor and Social Security (MLSS) show 100 million surplus farmers have landed jobs in cities as the country deepened its reform.

"China used to prevent farmers from working in the cities, pressured by the inadequate economic situation," said Yu Faming, director of the employment training department of the ministry, Thursday at the ongoing China Employment Forum.

The measures include the rigid residence registration system, grain quota system, employment and welfare system solely targeted to the urban residents, as well as the forbidding of house lease and sales.

Looking through policies regarding migrant workers in the past twenty years, Yu concluded that the state has made continuous efforts oriented toward the goal of creating more opportunities for migrant laborers in cities.

China first lifted the restriction in 1984, allowing farmers to seek jobs in cities. Meanwhile, the reform in the employment, residence registration policies and the opening-up of the real estate market triggered the free flow.

The reform was deepened in the years that followed. As problems popped up, in 2002, the central government called for nationwide efforts for safeguarding the rights of migrant workers. In the last two years, the government stressed again and again to remove the institutional obstacles to improve their employment environment.

The central government has also mapped out an ambitious seven- year plan to provide training for every migrant worker across the country starting 2003.

Han Jun, a noted expert and director of the rural area division of the State Council Development Research Center, said the central policy has switched from forbidding the flow, to accepting the flow and finally encouraging the flow.

Zheng Silin, minister of the MLSS said China now counts on the employment promotion of migrant workers as the main method to enhance their income, therefore bridging the wide gap between the rural and urban people.

However, migrant farmers ran into many obstacles on their way to the cities. The competition with laid-off workers from State-owned enterprises, the unfair labor market and the lack of social care make the life difficult for them.

Statistics also showed that China has another 150 million surplus rural work force, potentially to fuel the flow.

Zheng said China is dedicated to clear the way for migrant workers this year, and has put safeguarding migrant farmers' rights on top of their employment agenda.

Yu said China is also pushing forward to cover all the migrant workers with stable jobs with industrial injuries insurance system.

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