Shanghai municipal government has vowed to improve its social insurance system to provide better care for migrant workers.
The social insurance scheme, designed for Shanghai's migrant population, especially its farmers-turned-workers, already covers 3.3 million people, or 80 percent of that segment of population, according to the municipal government.
"However, we will take additional steps to improve the scheme, particularly in areas such as pensions, on-the-job injuries and health insurance, which are of great concern to migrant workers," Han Zheng said at a press conference late last month to mark his re-appointment as mayor of Shanghai.
Most of the country's 140 million migrant workers do not receive social benefits because they move around so often.
In 2002, Shanghai took a pioneering step by creating an insurance system for its floating population under which employers must contribute to pensions for migrant workers as well as cover work-related injuries and health insurance.
However, several obstacles have prevented the scheme from reaching all of those who need it.
"For various reasons, some migrant workers have not participated in the program," Hong Gang, a migrant worker deputy to the city's people's congress, said.
"Many businesses are reluctant to pay for insurance for their migrant workers because in addition to their contributions, they have to pay taxes on the money they give."
Still, city officials insist that the system should cover all migrant workers.
"All people coming to work in Shanghai, including the millions of migrant workers, are like members of our big family," the mayor said.
"The central government will put universal measures in place this year to safeguard the rights and interests of migrant workers, and Shanghai, in line with the national trend, will improve its own policies."
A soon-to-be-released document for local governments will help 140 million migrant people get access to better housing, medical services and education for their children.
Governments will be held responsible for educating the children of migrant workers in their adopted homes and build dorms for migrant workers.
They should also encourage migrant workers to obtain insurance coverage for work and basic medical care.
Migrant wokers will also have free services such as infectious disease prevention and treatment, children's vaccinations and maternity care.
(China Daily February 13, 2008)