China had 113.9 million migrant workers from rural areas in 2003, who accounted for 23.2 percent of the total rural laborers, according to a survey carried out by the National Bureau of Statistics.
In 2003, about 69 million rural laborers worked in medium-sized cities and 56.2 million rural laborers worked outside their provinces, covering 61 percent and 49.9 percent respectively of the total, according to the spot survey, which investigated 68,000 rural families and 7,100 villages among 31 provinces.
The survey also showed that the major destinations of rural workers were the relatively developed eastern areas, which attracted 69.9 percent of the total, while most rural workers come from major grain-producing areas, covering 65.8 percent of the total.
People under 40 years old accounted for 85.9 percent of the rural workers working outside and 47.3 percent of them were under 25, the survey said.
Looking through policies regarding migrant workers in the past twenty years, the Chinese central government has made continuous efforts oriented toward the goal of creating more opportunities for migrant laborers in cities.
China first lifted restrictions in 1984, allowing farmers to seek jobs in cities. Meanwhile, the reform in employment, residence registration policies and the opening-up of the real estate market triggered the free flow.
In 2002, the central government called for nationwide efforts to safeguard the rights of migrant workers. In the last two years, the government stressed again and again the need to remove institutional obstacles to improve their employment environment.
The central government has also mapped out an ambitious seven-year plan to provide training for every migrant worker across the country starting in 2003.
However, migrant farmers ran into many obstacles on their way to the cities. The competition with laid-off workers from State-owned enterprises, the unfair labor market and the lack of social care make the life difficult for them.
Official statistics show that China has another 150 million surplus rural work force, potentially to fuel the flow. China is dedicated to clearing the way for migrant workers this year, and has put safeguarding migrant farmers' rights on top of their employment agenda.
(Xinhua News Agency May 15, 2004)