A total of 6.13 million people flowed out of China's southwestern Sichuan Province last year, making it the largest source province of China's migrants, the provincial statistics bureau has reported.
Most of them headed for developed cities and regions where they could expect higher wages. Guangdong, Zhejiang, Fujian, Jiangsu, and Shanghai were the top destinations for Sichuanese, said the report in Thursday's Chengdu Daily.
Most people on the move were low-income earners, the paper said.
The country's total migrant population is estimated to hit 130 million.
China's migrant wave began in the 1990s when a handful of coastal cities started to develop and become rich, leaving the vast inland provinces far behind.
Migrants from poor western China often take jobs as construction workers, maids, waiters, waitresses and vegetable hawkers in cities.
The migrant population has made a remarkable contribution to urban development but their rights have not been well-protected. In the early days of China's economic transformation, they were often seen by local government as a threat to social stability. In recent years, officials have started to realize that migrants are an indispensable part of the city.
The influx of migrant workers has helped push up the population of Shanghai, China's economic hub, by almost 11 percent to nearly 18 million since 2000, previous reports have said.
The population of Shanghai has increased by 1.7 million since 2000, and more than 80 percent of the newcomers are migrants, reports said.
(Xinhua News Agency October 6, 2006)