CHINA / National

Experts: Improve welfare of 200 million rural workers
Updated: 2006-05-01 09:22

The 200 million rural migrant laborers now working in Chinese cities, one of the major forces creating the economic boom of China and the world as well, need to be taken good care of their rights by the government and the society, experts said.

A Chinese migrant worker carries his belongings as he boards his train to go home for the Mayday holidays, at the railway station in Beijing. Chinese experts urge the Chinese goverment to take good care of their rights. [AFP]

A central government survey has showed that 68 percent of employees in China's manufacturing sector and 80 percent in the construction sector were rural migrant workers.

"You must be kidding," construction worker Li Yuntian, 26, said when asked if he would be taking any days off for the official seven-day national holiday that begins May 1 Day, also called International Laborers¡¯ Day.

"We work every day, we don't even take Sundays off. As long as they pay us we will work," Li told AFP in an interview.

Li, who along with about 40 other young men from Hebei province is helping to build one of the seemingly limitless new skyscrapers in Beijing, told reporters frankly that he knew nothing about the labor laws.

Asked if he knew he was meant to be paid triple time for working on legally mandated holidays, Li simply shook his head.

China is in the midst of an unprecedented process of urbanization that by some accounts will see its city population grow by up to 600 million people by 2050.

According to a recently published survey by the Developmental Research Center of the State Council, China's cabinet, the nation's rural migrant labor force rose to 200 million people this year. The survey found that 120 million rural migrant workers now work in China's cities, while another 80 million are in smaller towns. All of them have left even lower-paying farm life.

The huge numbers of migrant workers have made it extremely difficult for the central government to manage the labor market, which in turn has provided limitless exploitation opportunities for unscrupulous businesses and local authorities, experts said.
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