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Childbirth Problems for Migrant Workers in Guangzhou

Many pregnant migrant workers in Guangzhou are unaware of services and support that are available to them, according to local authorities.

Guangzhou Municipal Bureau of Population and Family Planning yesterday announced the results of a two-year study into the sexual health and wellbeing of migrant workers in the capital of south China's Guangdong Province.

Last year, migrant workers accounted for about 50 percent of the city's total population but many, especially pregnant women, are missing out on medical support.

"About 63 percent of the pregnant migrant workers polled in the study returned to their hometown to give birth, while most of the others chose to give birth in the private and small clinics in Guangzhou," said Duan Jianhua, an official at the bureau.

"The direct reason of this phenomenon is the expenses for childbirth are too high in large-scale hospitals in Guangzhou. But we are finding that more and more pregnant women are dying because of improper treatment in illegal and private clinics.

"We have many free services to help pregnant migrant workers, and also offer condoms. Moreover, any legal hospital cannot impose baby delivery charges of more than 1,600 yuan (US$200).

"But all the policies that offer help require a woman to be registered as a permanent resident or hold a temporary stay certificate.

"More than 25 percent of the interviewees in the study said they did not receive any assistance or services for childbearing by the government. I think most them do not know they do have rights to receive help."

Duan said the first step for migrant workers to enjoy health benefits and support was to apply for temporary stay certificates.

Guangzhou had about 3.67 million migrant workers who applied for temporary residence certificates last year, with 930,000 of them being married women of childbearing age, according to Duan.

More than 50 percent of the total number of migrant workers in the city failed to apply for the certificates last year.

Duan admitted the government needed to do more to publicize healthy childbearing and safe sex in migrant workers.

About 80 percent of the 6,495 migrant workers interviewed, who were aged between 16 and 49 years old, had not received a high level of education.

Duan said it meant that most of them did not know how to fully use the resources of the government and how to protect their rights.

"Government education for migrant workers in this field will be very important in the future," Liu Yidong, the director of the bureau, said.

(China Daily June 14, 2006)

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