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New Generation of Migrant Workers Face Old Problems

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The new generation of migrant workers still suffers from a range of problems, including discrimination, infringement of their rights and limited access to essential social services, a six-month survey in north China's coal-rich Shanxi Province has found.

Focused on helping the new generation of migrant workers to integrate into city life, the Shanxi committee of the Communist Youth League of China carried out the survey from July 2010 across 11 cities in the province and polled about 5,000 young migrant workers.

Migrant workers suffer discrimination based on identity issues and unfairly limited access to medical services and education for their children, the survey found.

"It troubles me the most that since I and my family members don't have a local hukou (permanent residence permission), I have to pay an expensive extra fee to send my son to a local primary school. I can't afford such a big amount," Hu Zheng, a 30-year-old migrant worker from Sichuan province, told China Daily.

For the past three years Hu has been a skilled worker for the Sijian Construction Group in Taiyuan, the capital of Shanxi Province, and now earns 4,000 yuan (US$606) a month. Although his income has increased a lot, he still does not dare bring his wife and son to the city.

If, like Hu, a migrant worker is the only breadwinner in his family and does not have a hukou, he will find the cost of living in a city too high.

"I have worked in cities for years and like the city life because young people have more opportunities. But long separation from my family and the discrimination I face often upset me," he said.

Many young migrant workers faced similar problems to Hu's.

Most of those surveyed said they seldom went to public hospitals when they fell ill. Instead they went to small illegal clinics where the treatment was cheaper, according to results of the survey provided to China Daily on Tuesday.

Nearly 50 percent of respondents said they earned 500 to 1,000 yuan a month.

About 10 percent of those polled ran their own small businesses, and the rest were mostly employed by coal mines, metallurgical plants and pharmaceutical factories.

Only a small proportion worked at construction sites or restaurants, which showed that the employment expectations of younger migrant workers was rising compared with those of the older generation.

Most of the surveyed said, in addition to salary and welfare, they also evaluated the working environment, the employer's reputation and future career development.

The survey also found that the legitimate rights and interests of migrant workers were still often violated by employers. The problems included lack of labor protection, women being unequally paid, and delays in payment of wages.

The new generation of migrant workers, or the second generation of migrant workers, is a new social group. It generally refers to migrant workers born between 1980 and the early 1990s, many of whom were brought up in cities by their migrant worker parents.

Compared with the first generation of migrant workers, the younger migrants had wider career choices because they were better educated, the survey found. They depended less on the land and the trend was toward permanent migration to the cities.

China has 150 million migrant workers and 61.6 percent of them are aged 16 to 30, government statistics showed.

A string of apparent suicides at Foxconn's factory in south China and a spate of strikes across the country in the first half of 2010 put young migrant workers in the spotlight.

Since then, central and local governments have been called on to allocate more funds for the housing and education of migrant workers and their children, and to help them to settle down in cities where they will be entitled to social welfare and other benefits.

(China Daily January 13, 2011)

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