The health of migrant workers should be ensured at whatever cost, says an article in Beijing News. An excerpt follows:
It has been reported that the labor and social security department in Hubei Province recently provided free medical examinations for 14,000 farmers-turned-workers based in the province. Many of them discovered they were suffering from a disease.
Such an outcome is to be expected.
Most migrant workers come from rural areas to work overtime with poor conditions and a lack of regular living facilities.
In such a situation their health is clearly at risk. Even if they fall ill, they are reluctant to go to hospital fearing expensive medical bills.
Luckily, most migrant workers are in the prime of their lives and do not suffer serious health problems. But if the situation continues, the health of the vast rural population will be in serious danger and the establishment of the rural medical insurance system will be an even greater challenge.
Protecting the health of migrant workers by all possible means presents a challenge for the authorities in the city where they work.
To solve the problem, an urgent task is providing better working and living conditions.
Wang Guangtao, minister of construction, recently announced the government is to improve the living, working, sanitary and security conditions of migrant workers.
The central government also plans to include migrant workers in cities' medical insurance systems.
This is certainly encouraging news for farmers-turned-workers who have long worked in harsh conditions.
But to ensure the basic health of the large army of migrant workers, the government still has a lot of work to do.
The government should consider, for instance, how to offer timely aid when employers fail to fulfill their obligations, and how to provide the mobile workforce with stable medical insurance coverage.
(China Daily December 30, 2005)