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Wen's Commitments Sow Seeds of Hope in Migrant Workers' Hearts

The commitment made by Premier Wen Jiabao in his government work report delivered on Sunday that the problems of migrant workers would draw more attention has been met with optimism.

"The fact that Premier Wen mentioned us farmer-turned workers time and again in his government work report proves that we migrant workers are getting more and more attention from the central government," said Zhang Huaiping, a migrant worker.

Zhang, 37, a farmer from Sancha Township of Jianyang City, southwest China's Sichuan Province, on Tuesday haunted the job markets in Chengdu, the provincial capital, in hope of finding a new job.

Before the traditional Spring Festival this year, which fell on Jan 29, Zhang used to work as a cashier at restaurant, but the employer was so slow in giving him his salary that he quit the job after having taken his salary of 700 yuan directly from the cashier's machine.

Zhang lived as a migrant worker for 13 years after he bade farewell to farming. He complained of having been cheated by the employers many times in those years.

"What saddens me most is that employers are not trustworthy and often disrespect us," said Zhang.

Migrant workers, numbered at about 130 million according to the Ministry of Labor and Social Security, have provided the cheap labor critical to China's rapid development.

However, migrant workers are biased against in many respects and have in fact become a marginalized group in cities.

While addressing the opening of the on-going Fourth Session of the 10th National People's Congress (NPC) on Sunday morning, Premier Wen reiterated the commitments of the central Chinese government in making greater efforts to help solve a range of problems for migrant workers, including social security, education of their children and delayed payment of salaries.

Su Shicai, a farmer from Chongqing, an important industrial city on the upper reaches of the Yangtze River, took special interest in the premier's promise to help kids from low-income families complete compulsory education.

Su, who works a transient worker in Guangzhou, capital of south China's Guangdong Province, hasn't returned home for two years because of high expenses needed for a journey back home. His son, aged 9, who has been left behind in his rural hometown for schooling, is his biggest concern.

"Without an urban household registration, we have to pay an extra lump sum of money if I bring along my son to Guangzhou and send him to schools in Guangzhou, it is unfair," said Su.

Ren Junru, principal of a garment vocational school in Jieshou City, east China's Anhui Province, carefully studied Premier Wen's government work report from a newspaper.

He was very excited over Wen's commitment to the training and employment of migrant workers.

"Improved training of migrant workers with practical work skills will not only help farmer-turned workers gain privileges on the job market, but also help turn the huge rural population burden into an advantage of human resources," said Ren.

Ren, who is in his early 30s, is a native of Renlou Village of Tianying Town, Jieshou City. He worked as a transient worker with a garment-making mill in Dongguan City, south China's Guangdong Province, in 1999. On his return, he started up a vocational school where farmers are trained with skills for making garments.

"I believe that the implementation of Premier Wen's promises at the grassroots will be the key to success," said Ren.

(Xinhua News Agency March 8, 2006)

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