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Safeguards Needed for Migrant Workers

China urgently needs to safeguard the interests of temporary laborers employed without fixed hours or workplaces, according to members of China's top advisory body.

The issue was discussed at the third session of the Standing Committee of the 10th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), which ended yesterday.

CPPCC member Zhu Zhihong told the session: "We are very concerned with the situation of those employed in non-traditional ways." He made the observation on behalf of the standing committee's Sub-committee of Social and Legal Affairs.

Workers in "traditional" employment are hired for jobs with fixed hours and locations. But in "non-traditional" employment, the hours, days or even seasons they work can vary with each employer.

The Third Plenum of the 16th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China recently pushed for more flexible employment conditions to find jobs for the country's unemployed, considered essential for a stable Chinese society.

However, Zhu said the country's labor authority is still focused only on protecting the rights and interests of traditional workers. As a result, those working in non-traditional jobs have been stuck with unreasonably low pay or have had their rights infringed.

The sub-committee found 145 million Chinese worked without fixed hours and conditions last year. Only 14 per cent of these people earned more than 500 yuan per month (US$60.40), while only 10 per cent had ever signed employment contracts with their employers.

The country needs laws and regulations to set minimum wages in such cases and to protect those workers against exploitation, said Zhu.

Others at the CPPCC session pushed for the revitalization of old industrial bases in Northeast China, better protection of land and resources, an enhanced social security system for farmers and a more effective financing system.

(China Daily October 21, 2003)

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