Survey: Migrant workers still poor, miserable

By Xue Rui
0 CommentsPrint E-mail, July 20, 2010
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A study by the Shenzhen Federation of Trade Unions on the lives of the city's new generation of migrant workers – those who were born in the 1980s or later – shows that their biggest problems are low income and a low quality of life.

Migrant workers often earn only minimum wage, a monthly salary of 800 yuan, and work overtime to make more money. Still, their income is barely enough for more than one or two meals a day. Many live in cheap dormitories with other migrant workers, becoming isolated in these communities with little contact or connection with the city they work in.

Their meager income also puts a strain on their family lives. Some migrant workers admitted to having marriage crises. They often have to leave their children behind in their hometowns, creating a new generation of stay-at-home children. While many migrant workers do not wish to be separated from their children, the household registration system prevents their children from joining them in the city, where they must be registered to be eligible for the city's schools.

Despite low income and hardships, only 1 percent of those surveyed said they wanted to return to their homes to farm. The overwhelming majority of migrant works still choose to remain in the city because it offers more opportunities and a better life, even with the restrictions.

The survey also showed that the new generation of migrant workers has a strong desire to participate in politics but don't have the resources or knowledge to advocate their interests. For many migrant workers, there are few avenues within their companies with which to voice their needs. Often, when accidents happen, they are forced to shift jobs.

Wang Tongxin, president of Shenzhen Federation of Trade Unions, blamed the migrant workers' problems on over-general laws and regulations that are made without their input and favor employers and authorities. He said the survey results also showed the need for special legislation on the minimum wage and labor relations.

"In the new age, their problems will become much more acute, requiring a rapid reform of the social management system," Wang said.

Shenzhen has more than 7 million migrant workers on its social health insurance plan, more than any other Chinese city, according to the survey. Almost 74 percent of them are new-generation migrant workers.

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