The Ministry of Labor and Social Security (MOLSS) said on Tuesday it was scrapping the working card policy for migrant farmers-turned workers in towns and cities.
Previously farmers needed such permits if they wanted to work in provinces beyond their places of birth.
The ministry also required local labor and social security departments to clear up restrictive local policies and cancel illegal charges that targeted migrant workers.
In recent years, more and more farmers have come to cities to work. They have become indispensable to the development of the cities. In the traditional Spring Festival holiday, for instance, there are many reports that Beijing residents notice the departure of the migrant workers to their hometowns for family reunions because certain services such as domestic helping and baby sitting become unavailable.
The interests and rights of farmers-turned-workers, however, are not adequately cared for or protected.
They contribute significantly to the gross domestic products of cities, but they are not always counted as equal members of local communities. They have to pay dearly to buy various permits in order to work in cities.
By scrapping the working card prerequisite, the MOLSS is taking a good step in respecting and protecting the working rights of this group.
But it is far from enough.
In many cases, farmers are discriminated against. They are paid poorly. They live in poor conditions. And they have to pay extra fees for their children's education in the cities where they work.
More concrete measures need to be taken to discard all these other discriminative practices.
A change in attitude is the first step towards respecting farmers-turned-workers. We should bear in mind that we are supposed to be all equal.
Without serious implementation, the policies would mean nothing.
(China Daily October 29, 2004)