Farmer-turned-workers in China have obtained an all-round equitable treatment enjoyed by their urban counterparts in recent years.
Shanghai, China's leading industrial center, has 7.7 million industrial workers, of whom 3.8 million came from rural areas. In 2004, local enterprises bought all-risks insurance for 2.09 million workers from other parts of China to Shanghai. More than 9,200 migrant workers benefited from the insurance against injury at work last year and 4,900 others benefited from the insurance on hospitalization.
The Changzheng Township, a rising economic center in Shanghai, has employed 20,000 migrant workers, accounting for 70 percent of the total workforce in the township. Consequently, the township government has shifted its work emphasis from state or collectively owned enterprises to migrant workers, said township official Yuan Fangrong.
As from 2003, each migrant worker to Changzheng Township was presented a book on in-service training, which bears words of: "You are a migrant worker today and will be new citizen of new Shanghai tomorrow. While you create wealth for the township, the township provides you boundless opportunity and bright future."
In the past, there was a strict restriction between residents in urban districts and those in rural areas. Farmer-turned-workers failed to enjoy public welfare in residence, employment, medical care and education.
The country's economic reforms made it possible for 100 million rural residents to work in cities, breaking a barrier between city and countryside.
It is an inevitable trend of industrialization and modernization for surplus rural laborers to move to non-agricultural industries and to cities and towns, according to a report made by Jiang Zemin, the then general secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC), at the 16th Congress of the CPC held in 2002.
Under the plan, the rate of urbanization in China is expected to reach 56 percent by 2020. It means that 13 million farmers will become urban residents in upcoming 16 years.
Farmer-turned-workers have become an important force in production. Some have been awarded model workers and elected factory directors or neighborhood committee officials, said Shi Taisheng, an official of a construction corp. in Chengdu in southwest China's Sichuan Province. "In our company, farmers used to do odd jobs. Now, they play a vital role in production. Some have become technicians," he added.
Bao Xianfeng became the country's first peasant laborer winning a national model worker medal during the Labor Day of 2004.
Peasant laborers in many cities have begun to enjoy equal rights of their urban counterparts in sending their children to urban schools and receiving legal aid and social security treatment. They have also been included in in-service training, according to a regulation jointly issued by six government departments in September 2003.
In the course of household registration reform, quite a number of Chinese provinces, including Hebei, Hunan, Zhejiang, Shandong and Jiangsu, have adopted various reform measures to cater to their specific situation in easing restrictions on rural residents moving to urban areas.
The Chinese Ministry of Finance has issued a directive ordering the termination of all kinds of irrational surcharges levied by local governments on rural laborers working in cities.
China is drafting its first law on protecting farmers' rights and interests, which will put the nation's largest disadvantageous group under legal protection.
A growing number of migrant workers have cultivated their love for the cities they work in and take the new workplace their second home. For instance, some 1,500 migrant workers in Shanghai choose to spend the upcoming Spring Festival, China's Lunar New Year, in Shanghai.
(Xinhua News Agency January 12, 2005)