A cooperation agreement that aims to provide legal aid to
farmers-turned-laborers was signed by 31 major cities at the
weekend. The first of its kind in the country, it is a significant
step forward in safeguarding the rights and interests of farmer
Effective in almost all major cities in China which are on top of
the lists when rural laborers choose to seek jobs out of their
hometowns, the document will hopefully become a legal weapon that
farmer laborers can use when they suffer unfair treatment.
Taking into consideration the high mobility of the group, it
defines that victims of delayed payment could ask for legal aid in
any of the 31 cities under the agreement to recover their payment
as long as the case occurred in one of these cities.
This seems to be the most valuable part of the document as it makes
farmer laborers who are always on the move able to recover delayed
payments when they are in another city.
Official estimate indicates the number of regular farmer-turned
laborers stands at around 100 million. The money brought back by
these people is more often than not the lifeblood of their rural
However, due to insufficient protection of their rights and
interests either at the administrative or at the legal level, a
considerable number of migrant workers have to endure prejudice and
even varying degrees of maltreatment in the cities.
Among their sufferings, late or even cancelled payments stood out
as the worst violation of migrant workers' interests at the end of
Since then, both the government and society in general have given
keen attention on the plight of farmer laborers. Intervention of
government bodies at different levels and growing social pressures
over unfair employment practices have helped recover payments for
many of these unfortunate people.
However, to end this bad phenomenon, administrative measures are
not enough. A legal aid umbrella that farmer laborers could turn to
in times of maltreatment is also indispensable.
The agreement signed between the 31 major cities provides such an
umbrella to migrant workers working there.
make this really benefit the needy, migrant workers in those cities
should be made well aware of the agreement.
Given that medium and small-sized cities in the affluent South are
also the favorite destinations of migrant workers, it is equally
important that the practice could be expanded to cover more cities
and more people.
(China Daily August 28, 2003)