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Migrant Workers to Get Equal Rights

Migrant workers who were previously farmers will get the same labor rights as their counterparts from towns and cities starting next year, under a new regulation by the Ministry of Labor and Social Security (MLSS).

"No discriminatory restrictions should be set against the rural laborers entering cities for employment," the Employment Services and Employment Management Regulation issued on Wednesday stated.

Under the regulation, all laborers cannot be discriminated because of ethnicity, race, gender, and religious belief when seeking employment.

Farmers-turned-laborers or those without local household registration can also register for unemployment at local public labor service agencies if they have worked in a place for half a year and more.

Employment units should go to local public service agencies to register laborers or terminate their contracts.

"The provisions reflect tremendous progress in the country's labor policies," Mo Rong, the vice president of the labor science research institute under the MLSS, told China Daily.

Mo said policies toward laborers from rural areas have been changing with the times -- in the early 1980s, they were forbidden to migrate to cities, but this restriction was later lifted with the provision that the laborers brought their own "grain tickets" in the face of a grain shortage.

Since the 90s, the laborers have moved freely between rural and urban areas under the regulations of respective cities. The first great wave of migrants heading to cities occurred in 1992.

"They could finally 'float' between rural regions and cities without policy limitations after 2000," Mo said, referring to the country's policy improvements in the area.

"Laborers from rural areas will now be able to enjoy many free employment services in the cities with the new regulations," Mo added.

"These are possible under the auspices of a good amount of government subsidies."

With the new regulation, employers are now forbidden to refuse women work except when such jobs are stated as unsuitable as stipulated by the state.

"When an employing unit recruits female workers, it shall not stipulate in the labor contract any content which restricts female workers from getting married or having child," said the ministry.

Those suffering from infectious diseases are now also protected from discrimination.

In particular, laborers cannot be denied work based on Hepatitis-B tests unless the job already prohibits carriers of the disease according to laws, administrative rules and regulations set by the administrative department of health under the State Council.

Such employment units can be fined as much as 1,000 yuan (US$135) along with other compensation liabilities.

(China Daily November 9, 2007)

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