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Delayed Pay Perplexes Migrant Workers
Like many other migrant workers, Li Xiaohu is waiting for his overdue wages so that he could return home to spend the Spring Festival. But his foreman wrote him an IOU note dated October 14, 2002, which said Li is owed 2,500 yuan (US$300) and that he would get the payment once the building passes a completion inspection.

"The building passed inspection in October, but the foreman hasn't paid me," the Yunnan Province man said recently.

The wages owed are actually for Li and his wife, Niu Ying, who came to join him at a construction site in Hangzhou, capital of Zhejiang Province, in June last year.

The foreman promised the couple 50 yuan (US$6.05) each, which included the living cost and wages, for a working day of 10 hours before they started work, but so far, the couple has only received 400 yuan (US48.37), excluding the living costs, they said. They still owe 20 yuan (US$2.42) to a workmate who left a few days ago.

An official with the Ministry of Labor and Social Security said that it is a very common problem that villagers doing migrant work in the urban areas, especially in China's northwest, northeast and southeast, cannot get their wages in time.

The problem is widespread in the construction, catering service, garments and shoe manufacturing industries, said Su Hainan, director of the research institute for labor and wages under the ministry.

In the last three months of 2002, labor authorities in Zhejiang Province reported more than 170 cases of overdue-wages complaints lodged by migrant workers, involving 572 villagers who were owed nearly 1 million yuan (US$ 120,919), according to xinhuanet.com.

Guangdong Province has more than 26.2 million migrant workers, about one-fourth of the nation's total number of farmers who leave home to earn higher incomes. In the first half of 2002, at least 5,000 cases concerning delay in paying wages to migrants were solved. Local authorities said 64.4 percent of local businesses, mostly privately run or with foreign investment, were the culprits.

(eastday.com January 15, 2003)

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