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Guangdong Province Plans Farmer Welfare System

South China's Guangdong Province is planning to allow its farmers, who fail to find employment in urban areas, to enjoy the same social welfare that is offered to their urban counterparts.

According to the Guangdong Provincial Bureau of Labour and Social Security officials, new regulations to ensure farmers to have equal employment rights and opportunities are now being drafted.

Meanwhile, the province is also considering introducing a unified unemployment insurance system to both urban residents and farmers for the upcoming years, the official said Monday.

"The move aims to safeguard the employment rights and legal interests of the province's large number of farmers who are now losing their farmland because of rapid industrial and service sector development," said an official who declined to be named.

Currently, farmers are not entitled to be registered as permanent urban residents in accordance with laws and regulations in cities. That means they do not enjoy the same status as local residents in training, education and medical insurance programs.

And farmers now have no unemployment relief payments, like urban residents, if they cannot find employment.

Prosperous cities such as Guangzhou, the provincial capital, Shenzhen, Zhuhai, Dongguan and Foshan in the Pearl River Delta, will become the pilot cities to introduce the new systems in the coming years, the official said.

Bu he declined to estimate future unemployment rates, or how many persons will not be employed, in Guangdong when farmers are included in the urban laid-off worker totals.

Guangdong, which has a registered population of more than 80 million who enjoy residency permits in the province, has 23 million migrant workers.

Of the province's large number of migrant workers, about 17 million come from outside the province while 6 million others are mainly farmers from the province's rural areas.

Guangdong's urban unemployment rate is expected to be controlled at under 4 percent this year, indicating about 300,000 urban residents will not be employed.

And Peng Guoxin, a professor from the Guangdong Academy of Social Sciences, said the new system will further protect farmers' interests and will be positive in ensuring Guangdong's social stability.

And the new system will also help narrow the gap between urban residents and farmers, Peng said.

Peng predicted that more and more farmers will leave their land to find jobs in cities in the years ahead, accelerating the province's urbanization drive, particularly in the prosperous Pearl River Delta region.

In view of this, Guangdong will establish a five-tier system to strengthen the management of the growing numbers of farmers who rush to cities to find jobs.

In addition to a special leading group for managing the floating population and farmers at the provincial level, all neighborhoods, townships, counties and cities in the province will be required to set up special offices, departments and organizations to handle the issue.

(China Daily September 28, 2004)

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