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Regulation to Protect Henan Migrant Workers

The government of Henan Province issued a regulation on protection of migrant workers' rights on July 4, 2005. The regulation will take effect on September 1, 2005.

Migrant workers, dubbed the backbone of China's rapidly developing economy, move from the country's backward rural areas into big cities in droves in search for work and a better life. There are an estimated 100 million migrant workers working in China's bigger cities today.

Many of these migrant workers come from central China's Henan Province. According to the official website of the provincial government, by the end of 2001, 77.39 million people lived in Henan's rural areas. In 2004, approximately 14.11 million farmers left their homes to work in the cities for six months or more. About half of them work in other provinces.

In the first half of this year, 15.07 million farmers, accounting for 53.8 percent of Henan's surplus labor, left the rural areas to work in the cities.

According to the regulation, employers will have to compensate workers in certain instances including the following:

· Workers aren't paid on time;

· Employer pockets a portion of the workers' pay;

· Employer pays less than the minimum wage (this differs city to city. In Beijing, for example, the minimum wage is 545 yuan per month); or

· Employer reneges on an agreement (usually verbal) and refuses to pay any compensation.

Under the regulation, employers can be ordered to pay anything between 50 and 100 percent of the workers' salary in compensation.

The regulation also provides that employers must pay migrant workers additional wages for overtime work, and if workers are asked to work over festivals or public holidays. In addition, employers are obliged to cover workers with accident insurance.

The protection of children of migrant workers is another focus of the regulation, which emphasizes that these children have equal rights. For example, no state-owned primary or middle school is allowed to charge additional fees.

Further, the regulation puts the onus of governments at all levels to appropriate funds for the training of migrant workers. Social security departments are obliged to enhance training programs for migrant workers, and employers ought to pay for staff training especially in relation to technical work, mine work, construction work, and dangerous goods production.

( by Wang Sining, July 26, 2005)

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