The top legislature should urgently create a law to protect migrant workers' rights, a deputy to the National People's Congress has said.
Zhou Xiaoguang said the contents of the law should include specifying migrant workers' basic rights and social status, and protect their personal and property rights.
He added it should punish the act of delaying their wages, and ban any form of prejudice against the group.
Zhou, now chairman of Zhejiang Neoglory Jewellery Co Ltd, was himself a migrant worker a dozen years ago.
"The violation of migrant workers' rights, such as arbitrarily deducting or delaying their wages, is still a common occurrence," Zhou said. "Why not make laws to stop it?"
Zhou, who once ran a novelty item stall in a city in northeast China and made a living in Yiwu in Zhejiang Province as a migrant worker, knows clearly the hardships sometimes suffered by the group.
"It is a shame that so many people still look on migrant workers as a 'dangerous group'," Zhou said.
With a rapid economic and social development, more and more rural residents are flowing into cities, greatly accelerating China's pace of urbanization.
"In contrast with migrant workers' contribution to the cities' economies and social life, they receive too much prejudice and injustice," Zhou said.
According to statistics in 2002 by the Ministry of Labor and Social Security, 13,000 cases of migrant workers suffering delays or deductions in wages were investigated and prosecuted, involving 6.26 million workers. The delayed wages totaled 350 million yuan (US$ 43.2 million).
Most of the migrant workers also work for longer hours and in harsher conditions, but receive no compensation or protection stipulated by governmental regulations.
"The most fundamental cause behind the problems is a lack of legal protection," Zhou said.
Zhou said legislation on protecting migrant workers' rights is urgent as it concerns the social stability, as well as the economic development.
According to a Xinhua report in October last year, the Ministry of Agriculture estimated that Chinese farmers will migrate to cities at a speed of 8.5 million per year in 10 years, and the total migrant population will reach 300 million in 20 years.
(China Daily March 14, 2006)