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China, EU Combine to Protect Rights of Female Migrant Workers
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Zeng Shuqing, a female farmer from central China's Henan Province, traveled all the way to Beijing to secure an urban job.

Though she is employed in a plastic factory in Beijing now the 41-year-old Zeng is concerned about her lack of necessary skills to secure a future livelihood to support her two children and ensure they are educated.

A joint program, the Action of Promotion of Employment and Rights for Female Migrant Workers in Beijing was launched on Monday by China and the European Union in a bid to help female farmers like Zeng with their problems.

The program will study and analyze the living conditions, related policies and regulations, employment, medical care, insurance, housing, education and democratic rights of female migrant workers in an effort to improve their conditions and provide training and support.

Statistics show that women account for a third of the 4 million migrant workers in Beijing.

Female employees have become an indispensable part of the migrant workforce, said Cui Yu, head of the development department of the All China Women's Federation. "China tries to make female migrant workers the participants as well as the beneficiaries of building an affluent society," Cui said.

With acceleration of urbanization the massive surplus of laborers in rural areas have been moving to the cities to work in a range of jobs including construction, housekeeping, processing and various service trades.

China has more than 120 million migrant workers and they’ve made a significant contribution to the modernization of cities. But many are still faced with non payment of wages and being expected to do too much overtime, said Wang Yue, chairman of the Board of Directors of the Chinese Association of Non-Government Organizations (CANGO).

The traditional urban management model, especially the limitations of the residence registration system, has created an unfair welfare environment for migrant workers, he added. Compared with their urban peers migrant workers also lacked vocational training and skills.

Liu Danhua, deputy director of the training and employment bureau with the Ministry of Labor and Social Security, said migrant workers served as an important force in building a new socialist countryside. In recent years China has abolished restrictions against farmers working in cities and issued a number of policies favoring migrant workers.

But up until now the problems of the overdue wages of migrant workers and the education of their children had not been improved, Liu said.

In the past few years China has provided training programs for women in the countryside like housekeeping, babysitting and taking care of the elderly. Many say that they have "learned skills and grown in confidence".

(Xinhua News Agency March 21, 2006)

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