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Opinion ... ...
    Workers have to demand more

2006-03-08 06:04

Migrant workers' satisfaction with low wage levels is a problem not an achievement, says a signed article in Yanzhao Metropolis Daily. An excerpt follows:

It is common knowledge that migrant workers are poorly paid. The labourers ought to be dissatisfied. But according to a survey conducted by the Bank of China, most migrant workers can accept the current income level and only one-fifth are not happy with it. A Workers' Daily report says that about 74.1 per cent of those surveyed chose to work away from home this year. It concludes that migrant workers agree with the income level, which thus shows the improving working environment and labour price.

Such a conclusion deserves rethinking. Some business owners may use it as an excuse for keeping migrant workers' wages low they would say: Can't you see that they are satisfied themselves?

But are the migrant workers really satisfied?

The average annual income of migrant workers is about 8,000 yuan (US$988), accounting for half of that of urban workers. It was reported that the average monthly payment for migrant workers increased by 68 yuan (US$8.40) in the Pearl River Delta area from 1992 to 2004. Deducting the market price rise factor, the income of migrant workers actually decreased. How can migrant workers be happy with that?

Even though many of the surveyed workers chose to say ok, there are still a lot of hidden facts that are worth probing. The data collected in this survey gives a false impression and shows migrant workers' conceding their fate when their rights and interests cannot be guaranteed over a long period.

Migrant workers lack the market information to price the value of their labour. They are at the biggest disadvantage in the current social interest structure. Farming is actually making a loss under the urban-rural dual structure. Migrant workers can earn some money when working in cities, which is better than farming at home. Thus the migrant workers' acceptance of the low wages can only show the poor situation of farming in rural areas.

Also, migrant workers gradually become pessimistic as their rights and interests have not been well protected for a long time now. They lack the ability to fight against the low wage levels and have to accept it passively. While their current low wages are often defaulted, it is like a daydream to expect higher wages.

Migrant workers' satisfaction towards the current low wage level indeed reveals many problems.

(China Daily 03/08/2006 page4)


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