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Special Days Appointed for Migrants

The government of Chongqing municipality plans to make the first Sundays in November each year a special day for its four million farmers-turned-laborers -- a further step in the country to create a better living and working environment for this group of people.

The proposal was submitted to the local legislative body on Tuesday, according to a report by Chongqing Evening News.

The designation "Chongqing Farmers-Turned-Laborers Day" will enhance "respect and care for these people", Vice Mayor Tong Xiaoping told legislators.

It will also help safeguard their legal rights and interests, and improve their social status, Tong said.

He said as an effective way to promote social equality, the special Sundays will focus on such issues as training and employment, labor protection, social security, children's education and healthcare of migrant workers.

Scholars said they were happy to see the government's move on improving the social status of migrant workers, and hoped that more practical measures could be taken together with the special Sundays.

"Migrant workers should enjoy the same treatment as local residents. The Chongqing government is aware of the problem and is trying to tackle it," Liu Neng, associate professor of the department of sociology of the Peking University, told China Daily yesterday.

"However, the government must also monitor the results of these special Sundays to see whether there is an improvement in the living and working conditions of migrant workers. That is really a long-term task and needs more government input and consistent efforts," Liu said.

Some labor rights advocates, said the title of the special day should be changed.

"We don't like the title, Farmers-Turned-Laborers Day, as it already implies some discrimination," Wei Wei, who is in charge of a hotline in Beijing to help migrant workers, said.

"The government and local residents should be encouraging the equal treatment of migrant workers," he said.

Figures released by the State Council last year show there are about 200 million farmers-turned-laborers in the country.

(China Daily September 27, 2007)

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