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Chongqing to Observe First Rural Migrant Worker's Day

To mark the country's first Rural Migrant Workers Day, the Chongqing Municipality is going to reward 10 outstanding rural migrant laborers, organize city tour, offer free checkups and initiate a discounted sale of daily necessities, delegate He Shizhong said Monday on the sidelines of the 17th National Congress of the Communist Party of China.

He said that the southwest municipality would also ask staff of educational departments and schools to advise on the schooling of the children of rural migrant laborers.

Southwest China's Chongqing Municipality has designated upon the approval of local legislature the first Sunday of every November as Rural Migrant Workers Day to honor the builders of much of its modern infrastructure with the country's first ever Rural Migrant Workers Day.

China has more than 120 million migrant workers, mostly farmers from west China seeking work in east China's boom towns and cities. They mainly work in construction, mining, cleaning and catering industries, or the kind of jobs usually labeled "dirty", "heavy", "hard" and "exhausting."

Discrimination and prejudice against migrant workers were still common among urban Chinese, and news organizations reported frequent infringements of their rights, such as unpaid wages, said Sun Yuanming, a research fellow with the Chongqing Municipal Academy of Social Sciences.

He proposed extending the welfare routinely offered to urban residents to include migrant workers.

The number of migrant workers is steadily rising, prompting China's legislature and government to consider improving their welfare conditions, health care and education rights.

The government and city administrators have been gradually easing unreasonable restrictions on migrant farmer workers in recent years.

In Chongqing, one of the major source areas for migrant workers, a statute on safeguarding their rights and interests took effect in June 2005, the first of its kind in China. It states that migrant farmer workers are entitled to free job counseling, legal aid and free immunizations for their children.

He said that Chongqing was also considering to initiate a field survey and draft a guideline document to secure the benefits of rural migrant laborers.

Since September 2004, Beijing has included migrant farmer workers into the social insurance system.

In 2003, Premier Wen Jiabao pledged to help migrant workers retrieve unpaid wages during his inspection of the rural areas of Chongqing after a housewife complained that wages of her husband were always in arrears.

Some observers have said bias against migrant farmer workers comes fundamentally from political discrimination. But in March this year, the National People's Congress (NPC), China's top legislature, adopted a resolution providing for rural migrant worker representatives in the national parliament for next year's session, which was viewed as a major step for China's political reform.

(Xinhua News Agency October 16, 2007)

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