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China Vows to Strive for Balanced Rural and Urban Development

China will take multiple measures to support rural economic and social development to realize a balanced growth between its rural and urban areas, according to a Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee decision in Beijing on Sunday.

Comprehensive planning will be conducted in fields including industrial development, infrastructure construction and public service, as well as employment, with the needs of both rural and urban areas taken into account.

"We hope to lead the countryside (people) to catch up with its neighboring city (residents) and integrate the nation's rural and urban development into one entity," the committee said.

The rights and interests of migrant workers were given priority in the decision. The committee promised to take effective measures to ensure they had equal access to social welfare as their fellow citizens regarding wages, education, public health care and housing.

The country would also work to improve migrant workers' employment conditions and increase their social insurance coverage regarding work injuries, medical care and pension, among others.

"Policies on the transfer and extension of their social insurance will be compiled and take effect in the near future," the announcement said.

In addition, the committee said it would further reform the current household management system to reduce residency requirements for migrants working in more small- and medium-sized cities.

In this way, ex-farmers who lived in towns and cities with a stable job could become urban residents, according to the committee's decision.

At present, China has about 210 million farmer-turned-migrant workers nationwide who have moved to urban areas in search of a better living.

However, the current household administration system based on distinction between rural and urban population had long denied their access to some social rights enjoyed by urbanities.

The Chinese household registration system, also known as the hukou system, was approved in 1958. It has been attributed as a major cause of the widening gap between the country's rural and urban development, as it blocked the free flow and allocation of resources between the two places.

Recent years have seen the central government step-up efforts to protect migrant workers' rights in promoting a smooth urbanization.

At the 15th national congress of the All-China Federation of Trade Unions scheduled to end on Sunday, 47 migrant workers were elected to attend, the first time in the body's history.

(Xinhua News Agency October 20, 2008)

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