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A Day for Migrants

Chongqing municipality held its first nongmingong (farmers-turned-workers) day yesterday. The local people's congress had adopted the motion last week to designate the first Sunday of November as a special occasion for these workers.

Nongmingong is one of the most frequently used terms to have been coined after the economic reform and opening up of the late 1970s. Entire encyclopedia entries could be written on the term's many connotations, which record the entire history of the economic prosperity and social progress that have taken place in the past three decades.

There are few areas that have been untouched by the rise of the nongmingong. Even the highest-level science and technology research labs are housed in buildings built by nongmingong.

Ubiquitous could be the most appropriate term to describe the contributions migrant workers have made and are still making to the comfort and convenience we have enjoyed in the past decades.

A city would likely find itself paralyzed if all of thenongmingong suddenly withdrew overnight. It is not going too far to say that 200 million migrant workers have become or are becoming an important part of the social texture of urban life.

But there is a flip side. The sweat, poor working and living conditions, humiliation and numerous other miseries many migrants suffer as a result of their rootless floating take their toll, both physically and psychologically.

However hard they work, they are at constant risk of having their wages withheld by their employers. Many of them still face difficulties in sending their children to urban schools. And they can rarely enjoy the same social security as their urban counterparts do.

Chongqing exports some seven million nongmingong each year, and the income this massive work force earns is indispensable to the city. It is quite natural and right for the municipality to attach importance to the wellbeing of its migrants.

Chongqing has made it a regular practice to attach themes to its programs for the nongmingong. The theme for yesterday was "integrating into the city and realizing personal value". It is hoped that the rest of the country will follow Chongqing's example and do as much as it can to make life easier for nongmingong.

(China DailyNovember 5, 2007)

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