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Issues Concerning Rural Migrant Workers: Strategic Framework and Policy Options


Han Jun & Cui Chuanyi

Rural migrant workers are a new work force against the backdrop of China's reform and opening up as well as industrialization and urbanization in China. The results obtained from the second nationwide agricultural census showed that in 2006 the number of the employed migrant workers from the rural areas reached 131.81 million and the number would reach 228.46 million across the country after allowing for approximately 96.65 million rural laborers who were engaged in non-agricultural sectors in their respective localities, which was over 40% of the entire employed rural laborers. Rural migrant workers can be found everywhere in the country and are engaged in various trades and professions. They are a new social stratum and a main part of the industrial workers. The rising and steady growth of the ranks of rural migrant workers has made special and important contributions to the changes in rural areas. Rural migrant workers have become a huge strength driving China's economic development and advancing the change of China's social structure. Addressing the issues of rural migrant workers in a proper way not only has a direct bearing on the settlement of the issues of agriculture, rural areas and farmers, but also has a stake in the sound development of China's industrialization and urbanization, in social justice and harmony, in constructing a moderately prosperous society in an all-round way as well as in the modernization drive.

The overall requirements for properly addressing the issues of rural migrant workers under the new circumstances are as follows: planning employment in both urban and rural areas as a whole and promoting employment by creating business startups in a persistent way in the light of the scientific outlook on development and in line with the law of economic and social development and the will of hundreds of millions of rural migrant workers; taking the principle of putting people first and treating rural migrant workers impartially and equally as the fundamental requirement for properly handling the issues of rural migrant workers; taking the task of turning more rural migrant workers into urban inhabitants as a basic objective; facilitating the reform of the dual systems separately enforced for urban and rural areas; advancing the institutional innovation and guiding a reasonable and orderly flow of rural migrant workers; strengthening the protection of rural migrant workers' rights and interests, ensuring an equal enjoyment of basic urban public services among rural migrant workers and improving the overall qualities of rural migrant workers; establishing and improving a unified human resource market and accelerating the establishment of a unified social management system for both urban and rural areas to guarantee identical citizenships and equal opportunities and rights; striving to help rural migrant workers to become skilled workers for employment, to enter into labor contracts, to have guaranteed wages, to enjoy injury, disease and endowment insurances, to become capable of protecting their rights and interests and to improve their housing conditions; and enabling rural migrant workers to share the reform and development achievements.

On the basis of making an overall summarization of the status quo, trends and issues facing China's rural migrant workers, the task force on Strategic Issues Concerning China's Rural Migrant Workers under the Development Research Center of the State Council has put forward the strategic framework and policy options for addressing issues related to rural migrant workers.

I. Intensify the Training of Rural Migrant Workers and Improve the Labor Skills and Comprehensive Qualities of Rural Migrant Workers

1. Intensify the vocational and skill training of rural migrant workers

With the improvement of the stability and quality of employment among rural migrant workers as the goal, we should lay emphasis on the cultivation of skill-adapted and technically skilled rural migrant workers. We should ameliorate the multi-level skill training system guided by the government and jointly run by the government and the non-governmental sectors, which links the areas supplying or absorbing rural migrant workers and combines school education with workplace training and distance education. We should set up the new mechanism aimed at the tendering for training based on market demand, the purchase of training achievements by the government, the fair competition between public and private training agencies, the choice of training agencies by farmers on their own initiative and the enhancement of the training efficiency and quality. We should increase the input of the government in training of rural migrant workers by a wide margin, set up the joint training fund supply mechanism between the government, enterprises and rural migrant workers, increase the training subsidies and enlarge the training coverage. We should make efficient use of the training funds in various sectors at the county and municipal levels and bring the role of the funds into effective play. We should provide key support to the construction of a number of bases for the training of core members of rural laborers. We should let rural migrant workers enjoy urban employment training policies on an equal footing. We should encourage and supervise enterprises to withdraw 2% of workers' wages according to regulation as the funds for the vocational and skill training among rural migrant workers and encourage large enterprises and trade associations to initiate workers' schools and schools for rural migrant workers to conduct on-the-job vocational training. We should, by granting financial subsidies, reduce the expenses spent by rural migrant workers on participation in appraisal of their vocational skills, so as to enable the rural migrant workers involved in the trainings to acquire, through appraisal, related professional credentials or some single certificate on their vocational competence and to improve the training among rural migrant workers.

2. Establish and improve the vocational education and training networks in counties and practice the gratuitous vocational education in rural areas

We should increase the enrollment of students for vocational education in rural areas. We should increase the input of the government in the construction of secondary vocational schools (including polytechnic schools) and training bases, put a premium on the establishment of schools and the enrollment of students through joint efforts by urban and rural areas and by China's eastern, central and western regions and facilitate the linkage of factories with schools. We should provide gratuitous secondary vocational education in rural areas. We should increase funds to subsidize the junior and senior middle school graduates, who have failed to gain access to secondary vocational education, to have vocational education and skill training as a new labor force for six months or one year. We should promote the establishment of higher vocational schools to recruit rural senior middle school graduates or graduates of secondary vocational schools.


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