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Migrant workers to get injury insurance
By Fu Jing (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-07-26 08:48

Migrant labourers are going to get work-related injury insurance.

The Ministry of Labour and Social Security said priority will be given this year to millions of migrant workers in construction, mining and other sectors where employees are more likely to sustain industrial injuries or vocational damages.

The practice, to protect migrant workers' legitimate rights, will be expanded to all sectors in the future.

Chen Gang, a departmental director of the ministry, said the government's efforts to expand an occupational injury insurance system will offer labourers, or their kin, fair compensation if they are injured or killed while working.

Chen said migrant workers who suffered work injuries and vocational damages in those sectors often found themselves in a hopeless position as their employers refused to pay compensation for severe work injuries, vocational diseases or loss of lives.

Employers will be expected to pay occupational injury insurance fees and tell their employees about the policy.

The insurance will cover various types of injuries, including casualties suffered during business trips, vehicle accident injuries occurring on the way to or back from work, as well as injuries during emergency rescues undertaken to protect State or public interests.

He said all employers in those sectors are required to buy industrial injury insurance for farmers turned employees if they signed labour contracts, or face punishment.

Zhu Changyou, a labour expert of the Beijing Bureau of International Labour Organization praised the move to protect the legitimate rights and interests of the underprivileged migrant workers.

Together with existing measures - such as pensions, medical insurance, child birth insurance and unemployment insurance; the new industrial accident insurance is expected to help create a more reliable working environment and better protect residents' interests, Zhu told China Daily.

According to official statistics, there are now 130 million migrant workers in Chinese cities, which is almost equivalent to half of the United States' population.

This means that the country has more migrant than urban workers, and that they constitute the main Chinese industrial workforce. Urban workers were the dominant industrial workforce two decades ago.

"An overall social security system will play an important role in bolstering China's economic development, keeping social stability and protecting workers' rights," said Zhu.

The issue has become extremely important as accidents at work take the lives of more than 100,000 people in China every year and injure several hundred thousand.

Wang Xianzheng, director of the State Administration for Safe Production Supervision said the trend was worsening in recent years as the numbers of China's occupational accidents have soared in recent years.

"The new system will be much more fair and effective for employees and employers to deal with health hazards," said Wang.

The new system, which was started in the late 1990s, and on the basis of a number of trials in several cities, now covers a total of 45 million employees nationwide.

"But it is far from our goal, which is to cover all the employees in the country," said Wang.

Wang said commercial insurance services, including foreign companies, could also be allowed to join the queue for a stake in the industrial injury market.

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