Numbering nearly 20 million and mostly lacking resident registration, Chinese migrant children are facing severe difficulties protecting their rights, said a Chinese government official Friday.
Wan Yan, deputy director of the Office of the National Working Committee for Children and Women, said that the migrant population was on the rise in the late 1990s with the urban economic boom in China, resulting in a sharp increase of the number of migrant children.
According to statistics from the fifth national census in 2000, China has 19.81 million migrant children, nearly 20 percent of the total migrant population.
The current resident registration system has compounded their instability by failing to offer them social security welfare, said Wan.
She made the remarks at a ceremony at which United Nations children Fund (UNICEF) China office issued an annual report on the development of children in the world.
Figures from the census also showed that only half of the 100 million migrant people in China have been registered as non-permanent residents. Migrant children under 16 years old have not been registered for residence in the country.
The Chinese government has taken measures to give migrant children access to urban services on an equal basis with urban residents, said Dr. Christian Voumard, UNICEF China representative, Friday, also cautioning that many problems still remain.
The revision of the Law on the Protection of Minors is conducive to achieving the goal, he said.
Since 1998, China's Ministries of Education, Public Security and Social Insurance have issued regulations to ensure migrant children education, abolish non-residential fees for migrant workers and initiate household registration reform in towns and counties.
To better protect migrant children, Wan said, the migrant population should be incorporated into urban socioeconomic development planning and management. A new pattern of social resource allocation featuring a market-oriented mechanism that serves migrant groups should be established.
"The basic job is to have migrant children under 16 years old registered and their management and services, such as education, health, rights protection, be a government responsibility," she said.
She highlighted that a multi-sector work mechanism is crucial as the protection of children's rights and interests is a social undertaking involving different ministries.
UNICEF issues a world report on children annually to review children's development and puts forward suggestions. This year's theme is "excluded and invisible children".
(Xinhua News Agency December 19, 2005)