From October migrant workers will be offered free training in "putonghua", the country's standard spoken language. The announcement was made by Ministry of Education officials yesterday in Beijing.
"This programme is to bridge the distance between the standard language and different dialects of migrant workers," said Zhang Shiping, deputy director of the ministry's language department. "With a common language serving as a better communication tool, they are likely to find better jobs in the cities."
A national survey released last year indicated that more than half of the rural population cannot communicate in putonghua, while only 34 percent of urban dwellers had difficulties in it.
Zhang said provinces that export large numbers of migrant workers, such as Henan, Anhui and Sichuan, will be targeted this year. A launching ceremony is to be held in the city of Mengcheng in north Anhui province at the end of the year.
According to the programme, migrant workers will receive training on basic daily conversation, and free books on standard pronunciations will be offered.
"Many migrant workers return to their hometowns during the winter, so it is easier to arrange training classes at that time," Zhang said, adding they are also considering getting provinces and cities that import migrant workers involved in the programme.
"Our figures show that with better putonghua proficiency, migrant workers can get better jobs," Zhang said. However, Li Qing, an 18-year-old construction worker in Beijing, who comes from North China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, said that while putonghua does exert some influence on their job-seeking efforts, there are bigger obstacles like a lack of vocational training, and a lack of information on job vacancies.
(China Daily September 6, 2005)