Wei Xinsheng, a migrant worker in Beijing, bought a newspaper Wednesday to see if there was "good news" from the ongoing annual legislative session at the Great Hall of the People. He wanted to move his family to the capital after getting married.
"I earn more this year, but I want to earn more still," grinned the 24-year-old worker, who comes from central China's Hubei Province. He works as a carpenter at the construction site of Beijing Publishing House a few kilometers away from the Great Hall.
He is paid 80 yuan (US$10) per day, 30 yuan (US$3.8) more than in his home town of Shiyan.
He has to support his brother who is studying at a college at an annual expense of 15,000 yuan (US$1,875). Meanwhile, he needs to save 20,000 yuan (about US$2,500) for the marriage with his fiancee in November.
Wei is one of the 140 million migrant workers who leave their homes in villages across China to work in cities. However, they are often faced with low payment, tough working conditions and discrimination.
To Wei's delight, the central government said in January for the first time that farmers-turned-workers are a "new labor force that have emerged in the country's reform and opening up and process of industrialization and urbanization" and they have "contributed tremendously to urban prosperity, rural development and the modernization drive."
Wei took great interest in the government work report delivered on Sunday by Premier Wen Jiabao.
Premier Wen reiterated the commitments of the central Chinese government in making still greater efforts to help resolve a range of problems for migrant workers, including social security, education of their children and delayed payment of salaries.
"I think I will earn more as the government is paying much attention in safeguarding our rights and interests," Wei said.
Statistics show that skilled workers such as Wei are better paid than some urban residents. In Beijing, some college graduates are paid less than 2,000 yuan (some US$250) while Wei earns about 2,400 yuan (some US$300) a month.
Wei's employer, Beijing No. 2 Construction & Engineering Co. Ltd, has been paying him and his colleagues on time.
"We were demanded by the government to do so," deputy director of the company, Fan Luyun, said. "The workers work hard when they are paid promptly." Fan's company boasts over 20,000 migrant workers.
Wei envies a friend who was offered a visit to the Republic of Korea for outstanding performance at his post in 2005. Travel to foreign countries is admired in China, and such encouragement for a migrant worker is rarely seen.
However, many migrant workers are not as lucky as Wei Xinsheng. In some restaurants in Beijing, young girls from villages working as waitresses are paid about 600 yuan (US$75) per month.
Liu Chunyan from north China's Hebei Province has worked as a cleaner in the national capital Beijing for three years, earning 600 yuan a month. Her husband, a cook, earns 1,000 yuan (US$125). Liu is worried that she might lose her job if she falls ill.
"It will be wonderful if somebody provides medical insurance for me," she said.
Zhang Shezhen, a 24-year-old tailor, toiled more than 10 hours a day in the basement of a building in Beijing. She plans to find another job because her payment, only 500 yuan (US$63) a month, was sometimes embezzled by the employer.
"I hope all bad employers are to be penalized," she said.
(Xinhua News Agency March 9, 2006)