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Sichuan Governor Pledges Protection for Migrants

Southwest China’s Sichuan Province is devoted to protecting the interests and rights of migrant workers while encouraging surplus rural laborers to seek work outside, provincial Governor Zhang Zhongwei said Saturday afternoon.


Zhang is attending the current NPC (National People’s Congress) session in Beijing.


Sichuan Province, with its population of 87 million, is known for its plethora of surplus rural labor. Half of the 1.4 million rural workers who sought jobs in the developed coastal areas and big cities last year flowed out of Sichuan.


“Migrant workers have greatly promoted the economic growth of Sichuan Province, increased the income of local farmers and helped solve the problem of unemployment in this group,” said Zhang.


Migrant rural laborers earned 47.4 billion yuan (US$5.7 billion) last year, and they remitted 27.7 billion yuan (US$3.4 billion) back home.


“They also bring back technology and information. Over 30,000 migrant workers have now returned home to start businesses,” he added.


However, the interests and rights of these workers, often undereducated and unaware of their rights, are in many cases violated. Their salaries are not delivered on time; living and working conditions are bad and sometimes unsafe. Matters have worsened in recent years.


Last year, the Chinese government launched a nationwide campaign to resolve the overdue salary issue. In Sichuan Province, out of a total of 2.3 billion yuan (US$277.8 million) in unpaid salaries, 1.9 billion yuan (US$229.5 million) has been recovered.


“We plan to solve the problem of outstanding overdue payments immediately, and set up a mechanism to prevent possible new ones,” Zhang reported.


In addition, the Sichuan provincial government has established an assistance center for migrant workers, the first of its kind in China. It has helped workers recover 14 million yuan (US$1.7 million) in unpaid salaries in the past half year.


Zhang said that his government plans to offer legal aid to those in need, and local labor authorities have been asked to strengthen supervision. Last year, local authorities resolved 35 percent of the unpaid salary cases. Branches of the provincial government outside Sichuan can also help migrant workers.


The provincial government plans to provide training to migrant workers to improve their competitiveness and guide the labor outflow.


“We’ve raised 20 million yuan (US$2.4 million) to carry out professional technical training,” said Zhang, adding that most of the workers are trained as Sichuan cuisine chefs or as household staff.


(China.org.cn by staff reporter Tang Fuchun, March 8, 2004)

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