The number of China's estimated 200 million migrant workers covered by medical insurance increased from 4.9 million at the end of 2005 to 18.4 million at the end of this September, the National Development and Reform Commission said on Thursday.
Migrant workers covered by employers' liability insurance also surged by 79.3 percent to 22.4 million in the first nine months of the year thanks to China's greater efforts to protect their rights.
China's economic boom has driven an unprecedented army of about 200 million people to swap farms for factories, construction sites and mines as they seek a higher income.
A survey by the State Administration of Work Safety (SAWS) in nine provinces shows that migrant workers account for 80 percent of China's 30 million-plus construction personnel. They also make up 56 percent of those employed in mining, dangerous chemicals and fireworks factories.
The survey also shows that almost all the workers at small collieries are migrants. Even in state-owned collieries almost all the non-management jobs are filled by such workers.
Poor safety facilities, slack safety rules and a lack of proper training have made migrant workers the most vulnerable group in terms of work safety.
To protect their interests the Chinese government has been pushing for wider insurance coverage in dangerous industries such as coal mining and construction. By the end of last year almost all the migrant workers in major state-owned collieries had been covered by employers' liability insurance.
China is also trying to strengthen the training of these workers as the SAWS survey shows that 90 percent of industrial accidents are caused by human error and 80 percent occur in work places dominated by a migrant workforce.
A SAWS directive states migrant workers in dangerous industries must receive no less than 72 hours of safety training before they begin work. For those in the construction industry the minimum requirement is 32 hours. The guidelines also require no less than 20 hours of safety training for each worker annually.
(Xinhua News Agency November 17, 2006)