Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

Give migrant workers their rightful due

By Li Renqing (China Daily) Updated: 2015-05-19 07:54

Give migrant workers their rightful due

Despite the risks they face, a large number of middle-age migrant workers choose to leave their homes in rural areas and work in cities, mainly because they don't want to become old before "securing their future". Many middle-age rural residents have heavy family responsibilities but lack the necessary knowledge and skills to fulfill them, and thus choose heavy physical labor to make ends meet.

The average life expectancy is gradually increasing in China thanks to the improving living standards. Given this fact, the retirement age should be extended and social security increased. But that doesn't mean middle-age migrant workers should be encouraged to work longer without any social security.

To prevent overwork from causing extensive harm to middle-age migrant workers, the authorities should establish a compulsory healthcare and medical checkup system. Also, such migrant workers should be given proper career training to help them cope with the challenges they face in work places and secure their future.

The way we treat our middle-age and senior migrant workers reflects our social conscience. Middle-age and senior migrant workers face many difficulties at work, such as backbreaking work, high health risks, weak social welfare and social security, as well as poor protection of rights. These people have made great contributions and sacrifices on the road to China's fast-paced economic development and transformation. Therefore, they deserve part of the economic benefits.

The least the authorities could do is to end the differential treatment of urban and rural residents. This is an issue they cannot afford to ignore if they want to ensure China's sustainable development, including urbanization and economic transformation.

The author is a researcher with Rural Development Institute, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

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