Compared with the farmers who stay at home and stick to their farmland, migrant workers who take jobs in urban areas are more wealthy and active. They have become the principal part of the middle class in China's rural areas, according to the Social Structure Research Center of Anhui Province of China.
Wang Kaiyu, a section leader of the research center said this conclusion comes from its recent survey of China's middle income stratum, which was financed by the National Social Science Fund.
The survey shows that at present the stratum with medium income in China's rural areas is mainly composed of migrant workers, private enterprise owners and self-employed proprietors, among which the migrant workers are the main body.
For instance, in Dangtu County of east China's Anhui Province, migrant workers account for 23.3 percent of the total labor force, and 61.8 percent of this group have an annual income of between 8000 and 25000 yuan (about US$1000 to 3000), which is about three times higher than the average income of the farmers in this province, Wang said.
In neighboring Henan Province, the total earnings of migrant workers amounted to 61.3 billion yuan (about US$7.6 billion) last year, 35 percent of the gross income the rural population.
The average annual income of the migrant workers from this agricultural province was 4,344 yuan (about US$535.6), more than 70 percent higher than the per capita income of the rural residents.
As the main part of the middle class in China's rural area, migrant workers do not make money depending on the traditional agricultural production, said the expert.
Wang said the young generation of Chinese farmers, who are more educated, have become the most active group in the rural labor force transfer.
However, Wang holds that the enlargement of the stratum with medium income in rural areas should rely more on the industrialization of agriculture, rather than the increase of migrant laborers.
(Xinhua News Agency November 15, 2005)