China has vowed to further remove discriminatory government regulations which keep migrant workers out of cities, in an effort to increase the income of rural residents, said a senior official Monday.
Ma Kai, minister in charge of the Chinese State Development and Reform Commission, made the statement when reporting the implementation of this year's national economic and social development plan to Chinese legislators at the ongoing fourth meeting of the National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee Monday.
The government will make more substantial efforts to penalize employers who refuse to pay migrant workers minimum legal wages, Ma said.
China regards increasing rural residents' income as the second most prominent task of the government, after preventing the epidemic of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) from coming back.
The growth of rural residents' income has slowed down in the past few years and was greatly held back by the outbreak of SARS, Ma acknowledged.
About 7 to 8 million migrant workers went back to their hometowns in rural areas during the period of SARS in the first half this year.
So far more than 100 million rural residents are working in cities from their rural hometowns.
Migrant workers from rural areas usually have to pay city governments for a series of certificates for residency, health and job seeking.
The police in the national capital of Beijing won applause from migrant workers and general public by canceling the certificate for temporary residency.
The administrations will work to simplify procedures, cut charges and offer training and guidelines to migrant workers from the countryside, Ma said.
He further noted that trade unions will be in place to protect the legal rights and interests of migrant workers.
The All-China Federation of Trade Unions announced that migrant workers from rural areas can become members of trade unions nationwide, which used to only accept workers in urban areas.
(Xinhua News Agency August 25, 2003)