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Insurance Package Covers Over 30 Mln Migrant Workers

Most of China's 200 million migrant workers in these industries endure hardship, fatigue and danger. In fact, their biggest fears revolve around injuries.

The Ministry of Labor and Social Security (MOLSS) launched the Safety Program, a nation-wide work injury insurance program for migrant workers, during the first half of last year. This initiative is designed to cover migrant workers in all mining and non-mining industries and most of the construction industry by the end of 2008.

"The most crucial and realistic issue that the migrant workers care about is work injury insurance," said MOLSS Vice Minister Hu Xiaoyi, who is also the director of the Office of the Joint Meeting of the Affairs of Migrant Workers under the State Council. "To safeguard the rights of the migrant workers, it is the government's priority issue to solve the problem of work injury insurance."

Sources within the MOLSS Insurance Department reported that the work injury insurance was inclusively designed for all enterprises in urban and rural areas. The rates would be very low and paid by the employers instead of employees. If an employee is injured in an accident or suffers from an occupational disease, after the injury is identified and a local insurance company has assessed the injured party's future work capacity, this employee will receive compensation based on the regulations. Migrants working across regions may choose to receive compensation either once in one lump sum or over a long time period.

According to the latest statistics, the past year has seen great progress after the Safety Program was launched. By the end of June this year, the number of migrant workers insured reached 30.62 million, which means that half of the 60 million migrant workers who have relatively steady work relations with their employers are now effectively enrolled in the work injury insurance system.

Having successfully aimed to include a great deal of coal mine workers into the insurance system last year, MOLSS this year has now focused on encouraging more workers in construction enterprises to join the insurance system. They would like to guarantee full migrant worker enrollment in the injury insurance program. In fact, it is expected that the number of insured migrant workers will reach 36 million by the end of this year.

Migrant workers are concentrated in the construction industry. According to statistics, one quarter of the total migrant workers in China are working in construction industry. Accidental death rates rank second in construction, with the first being mining. Currently, construction migrant workers have a low participation rate regarding work injury insurance. Some migrant workers cannot effectively secure their rights.

MOLSS and the Ministry of Construction have released a joint notice that construction enterprises are requested to purchase work injury insurance for their migrant employees in accordance with the new insurance regulations.

Beijing has called for all the migrants working on construction projects to be enrolled in work injury insurance program. All the fees have to be paid up front in toto before the project begins. This policy is not only convenient for the enterprises but also guarantees that all migrant workers on any given construction project are ensured. Based on the experience in Beijing and other places, MOLSS plans to promote this practice nationwide, in an attempt to accelerate the process of granting insurance to all migrant construction workers.

Meanwhile, the Chinese government will continue to ensure that migrants working in large and medium-sized mines are insured, and to have more workers participating in the insurance program in smaller mines. It will also attempt to enroll more employees laboring in high-risk enterprises dealing with chemical products included in the insurance program. Additionally, the government will actively promote insurance enrollment in the service industries, including trade, hotel and catering. The goal is to increase migrant worker enrollment in the government supported insurance program.

Chen Gang, Director of the Work Injury Insurance Department of MOLSS, revealed that "the State Council's Opinions on Solving the Issues Concerning Migrant Workers" has made an appeal to legislate worker injury insurance for migrant workers into government bylaws. Thus, all enterprises must buy work injury insurance for their migrant workers that they employ and pay sufficient insurance fees in a timely fashion.

With the implementation of the Safety Program, Chinese migrant workers' expectations regarding work injury protection have greatly increased.

(China Development Gateway by Xu Lin July 26, 2007)

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