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Three Worries for Migrant Workers
Now, more and more rural workers come to the cities to find jobs. Some settle there for hard work and to save money and it would seem that these rural workers have been adopted by the cities. But the reality shows that there is also an invisible door by which migrant workers can be rejected.

Deng Shuquan and his wife Li Shufen used to be farmers in Yongfu Village, Hailun City. In 1986, they moved and settled in Mudanjiang City, east of Heilongjiang Province, with their one year-old baby. Sixteen years have passed, and Deng’s family is now living a well-off life through the couple’s hardwork and frugality. Though they have bought an apartment and have 100,000 yuan (US$12,095) savings, they are still puzzled by the “three worries” for the migrant workers.

First worry: their daughter is 17 now but doesn’t have hukou (registered permanent residence).

Deng went back to Hailun City last Spring Festival to apply for an ID card for his daughter. However, he couldn’t find his daughter’s hukou in the police office. Moreover, he couldn’t find his own hukou. A policeman told him, “Your hukou registration was canceled as you left here a long time ago.” Deng feels unsure though he has got the ID card for his daughter with 400 yuan (US$48). Deng said, “It is ok for me if I don’t have the hukou. How can my daughter further her education and marry without the hukou? She is young. ”

Second worry: they can’t acquire the title to a property of their own without local hukou.

Deng Shuquan and his family moved 10 times until they bought their own house in 1996. When they went to the relevant department to apply for their housing property right, an official told them that they could have the title to their house property if they have a local hukou. So they asked their cousin for help. With the cousin’s hukou they acquired a title to their housing property, but the property was named in the cousin’s name.

Third worry: they can’t buy insurance without local hukou.

Deng Shuquan works as a porter in a state owned company since 1988. In 1996 the company bought insurance for Deng. But the insurance contract was suddenly canceled by the insurance company and money was sent back in 2001. The insurance company told Deng’s unit that they couldn’t sell insurance to migrant workers. Then, Deng tried to buy medical treatment insurance for his wife and child, but there was no insurance company who would like to do business with him. Some insurance companies even claim in public that it is asking for trouble to sell insurance to rural workers because they know little about nutrition and sanitation.

It is simple for urban residents to apply for hukou for their children; they write their names on their own housing property paper, and can also buy insurance. But these remain three worries for the rural migrants. Their hometown becomes a memory to them, and an invisible door separates them from the cities. Just as Deng said, “I have to remind myself every minute that I am the one who came from the countryside.”

Encouraging farmers to work in cities, decreasing population in agriculture, increasing farmers’ incomes, and improving farmers’ living conditions are policies adopted by central government to solve farmers’ problems. Time has proved that these policies are effective. Why then do these migrant workers not enjoy the good national treatment in the cities? Who set the invisible door that separates the farmers from the cities?

For another example, many elementary schools and middle schools reject migrant children, or ask migrant workers to pay higher education fees. It has departed from the policy of a nine-year compulsory education for all. How can migrant children grow up healthy and care-free? This is man-made discrimination.

Cities should be more tolerant. People can find greater development opportunities in a tolerant city. Rural people not only give their labor to cities, but also fuel national consumption. There is no reason to set up an exit door to discourage migrant workers from going to cities.

( by Wu Nanlan July 17, 2003)

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