Archive for ‘temporary workers’

12/07/2015

13 Million Guangdong Migrants Could Gain Permanent Residence By 2020 – China Real Time Report – WSJ

Faced with a persistent influx of rural workers, China’s most populous province plans to allow more migrant residents to settle permanently in its cities, in its latest effort to ease decades-old curbs on rural-urban migration.

Under new guidelines published this week, Guangdong authorities aim to grant local household registration to roughly 13 million migrant workers by 2020, allowing them to access public services—spanning housing, health-care, social security and education—that are typically reserved for urban residents.

Guangdong has often taken the lead in efforts to liberalize the hukou system, a national household-registration regime that curbs rural-urban migration by tying benefits like health care and pensions to a person’s place of birth. Experts say the system forces many rural migrants to live as second-class citizens in urban areas, aggravating social inequality while fueling tensions between locals and outsiders.

Hukou reforms are a pressing matter for Guangdong, a southern Chinese manufacturing hub that hosts the country’s largest transient population. Among its roughly 110 million residents, more than 24 million are migrants from other regions, while another 10.6 million have relocated within the province.

“Reforming the household-registration system will speed up our province’s urbanization process, and facilitate the coordinated development of the Pearl River Delta region,” Peng Hui, deputy director-general of Guangdong’s public security department, told a news briefing this week.

As part of the reforms, provincial officials will aim to “equalize” the provision of public services and ensure “balanced” economic development between rural and urban areas, according to the new guidelines.

China has used the hukou system since the 1950s to keep people from moving to the cities and forming the sort of slums that plague other developing nations. In recent decades, however, rural migrants have increasingly bucked the system to seek better opportunities in urban areas, without approval to live there.

Beijing, for its part, has since changed tack and pushed to urbanize its population of nearly 1.4 billion people, of which about 45% still in live in rural areas. But experts say the government must speed up its dismantling of the hukou system, warning that social tensions could fester and even boil over in the coming decade as China’s “floating population” of more than 250 million continues to expand.

Last year, Beijing pledged some changes to the hukou system, with restrictions to be lifted first in small towns. More stringent requirements will remain on those who want to live in larger cities, which are generally more attractive to migrants.

 

Guangdong’s plan follows a similar approach. Provincial officials say they plan to “fully liberalize” settlement rules in small, county-level cities and so-called “administratively designated towns,” where migrants with legal and stable places of residence will be allowed to apply for permanent residency.

via 13 Million Guangdong Migrants Could Gain Permanent Residence By 2020 – China Real Time Report – WSJ.

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12/12/2014

China’s Construction Workers: Abused and Unpaid – Businessweek

China’s millions of migrant construction workers are building the country’s new highways, stadiums, shopping malls, and rail lines. They often get little in return—sometimes not even their paychecks.

Migrant workers in Beijing

A new survey of 4,329 construction workers by two Chinese nonprofits, the Beijing Practitioner Cultural Development & Research Center for Migrant Workers and iLabor, found that only 5 percent of migrant laborers are offered work contracts. Most take ad hoc jobs, relying on the word of site managers about when and how much they will be paid. The survey documented at least 138 cases over seven years of companies failing to pay any workers on a site.

Zhang Kejian has worked as a construction laborer for 14 years. Every year he has been on the job, he’s had to contend with late or unpaid wages, as he told Caixin magazine. “I hope our society can be aware of what we’re going through,” he said, “and help us with a contract instead of making us slaves of our bosses.”

via China’s Construction Workers: Abused and Unpaid – Businessweek.

30/07/2014

China Focus: Hukou reforms to help 100 mln Chinese – Xinhua | English.news.cn

China plans to help about 100 million people without urban ID records to settle in towns and cities by 2020, as part of reforms to phase out its dual-household registration system, the State Council, China’s cabinet, said on Wednesday.

It issued a circular aimed at accelerating reform of the nation’s household registration, or “hukou,” system.

The document said the government will remove the limits on hukou registration in townships and small cities, relax restrictions in medium-sized cities, and set qualifications for registration in big cities.

The rights and benefits of residents who do not have urban ID records in the city where they live should be safeguarded, the document added.

At a press conference on Wednesday, vice public security minister Huang Ming said different approaches will be applied in the hukou system, based on the size and population of a city.

Authorities will set no limits for those who want to settle in small cities and towns. “Anyone who has a legal residence can register for permanent residence, even temporary tenants,” Huang said.

Medium-sized cities with a population between one million and three million will have a low threshold, while megacities with more than five million residents will try to strictly control the influx of new citizens.

People wishing to settle in megacities like Beijing and Shanghai will have to qualify through a “points system” based on their seniority in employment, their accommodation and social security, according to Huang.

Megacities “face a lot population pressure, with an annual floating population of hundreds of thousands,” the official said.

via China Focus: Hukou reforms to help 100 mln Chinese – Xinhua | English.news.cn.

07/05/2014

In China’s Xinjiang, economic divide seen fuelling ethnic unrest | Reuters

Hundreds of migrant workers from distant corners of China pour daily into the Urumqi South railway station, their first waypoint on a journey carrying them to lucrative work in other parts of the far western Xinjiang region.

Uighur women stand next to a street to wait for a bus in downtown Urumqi, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region May 1, 2014. REUTERS-Petar Kujundzic

Like the columns of police toting rifles and metal riot spears that weave between migrants resting on their luggage, the workers are a fixture at the station, which last week was targeted by a bomb and knife attack the government has blamed on religious extremists.

“We come this far because the wages are good,” Shi Hongjiang, 26, from the southwestern metropolis of Chongqing, told Reuters outside the station. “Also, the Uighur population is small. There aren’t enough of them to do the work.”

Shi’s is a common refrain from migrant workers, whose experience finding low-skilled work is very different to that of the Muslim Uighur minority.

Employment discrimination, experts say, along with a demographic shift that many Uighurs feel is diluting their culture, is fuelling resentment that spills over into violent attacks directed at Han Chinese, China’s majority ethnic group.

The apparent suicide attack on the station, which killed one bystander, was the latest violence to hit Xinjiang, despite a pledge from China’s President Xi Jinping to rain “crushing blows against violent terrorist forces”.

via In China’s Xinjiang, economic divide seen fuelling ethnic unrest | Reuters.

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28/06/2013

China Moves on Reforming Hukou?

BusinessWeek: “Is China finally ready to make some serious progress on reforming its restrictive household registration or hukou policy? That’s the decades-old residency system that gives all Chinese an official status as either urban or rural (as indicated in a small red passbook). On June 26, China’s powerful National Development and Reform Commission announced in a report on urbanization that “the government should gradually tear down household registration obstacles to facilitate the orderly migration of people from rural to urban areas,” according to the official Xinhua News Agency.

Residential buildings in Beijing

To date, the hukou system has not only discriminated against hundreds of millions of Chinese, making it difficult for them to live comfortable lives in cities, it has also been an obstacle to Beijing’s desire to reorient towards a more domestic consumption-driven economy. Even though China became a country with an urban majority in 2011, some 230 million of those now living in the cities still have a rural hukou. That means they do not have access to the same healthcare and education benefits as other urbanites, and often can’t purchase apartments or even get a driver’s license. As a result, most end up being big savers, in preparation for an eventual move back to the countryside—not the free-spending Chinese necessary for Beijing’s rebalancing policy to succeed.

The latest proposal by the NDRC is part of a larger package of policies now being drafted, aimed at pushing faster urbanization in China. The commission’s recommendation for hukou reform however appears fairly modest. Rather than allowing the free flow of people to all of China’s urban areas, it instead allows rural residents the right to first get residency in smaller cities. That is a good first step.”

via China Moves on Reforming Hukou? – Businessweek.

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01/06/2013

China’s Lopsided Labor Force

BusinessWeek: “While a dwindling number of migrant laborers is helping drive up salaries in China’s assembly-line industries and other low-skilled employment categories, a surplus of college graduates for available white-collar jobs is eroding the bargaining power of those with university degrees.

Students preparing for the college entrance exam in China's Sichuan province

Wages have been steadily rising for China’s 260 million migrant workers—who take jobs in factories, on construction sites, in restaurants, and in other sectors with minimal entry requirements. According to the government-led All-China Federation of Trade Unions, the average monthly earnings of migrant workers across China rose 11 percent from 2011 to 2012, to 2,290 renminbi ($370). That exceeds the rate of China’s GDP growth.

Meanwhile, as central-government investment has allowed China to increase university enrollment and graduation rates massively, the demand for college graduates has not kept up. The number of university degrees awarded annually has risen fourfold in a decade, to about 8 million today.

Among those new graduates who did find employment last year, 69 percent had starting salaries that paid less than 2,000 renminbi per month—in other words, their jobs paid them less than they might have earned as migrant laborers, according to figures reported by a the 21st Century Business Herald newspaper on Tuesday.

Those grim numbers won’t, however, dent the hopes of millions of high-school seniors who will be taking China’s three-day college entrance exam the first week in June. The exam, called gaokao, is widely criticized for stressing rote-memorization skills over critical thinking. Critics have called for reforming the test for years, but for now, it’s still a key hurdle—the first of many—for students aspiring to steady jobs and a middle-class life.”

via China’s Lopsided Labor Force – Businessweek.

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31/05/2013

Urbanisation: Some are more equal than others

The Economist: “FOR many migrants who do not live in factory dormitories, life in the big city looks like the neighbourhood of Shangsha East Village: a maze of alleys framed by illegally constructed apartment buildings in the boomtown of Shenzhen, near Hong Kong. There are at least 200 buildings, many of them ten storeys tall (see picture). They are separated by only a metre or so, hence the name “handshake buildings”—residents of neighbouring blocks can reach out from their windows and high-five.

The buildings are China’s favelas: built illegally on collectively owned rural land. Rents are cheap. An eight-square-metre (86-square-foot) flat costs less than $100 a month. They symbolise both the success of the government’s urbanisation policy and also its chronic failures. China has managed a more orderly system of urbanisation than many developing nations. But it has done so on the cheap. Hundreds of millions of migrants flock to build China’s cities and manufacture the country’s exports. But the cities have done little to reward or welcome them, investing instead in public services and infrastructure for their native residents only. Rural migrants living in the handshake buildings are still second-class citizens, most of whom have no access to urban health care or to the city’s high schools. Their homes could be demolished at any time.

China’s new leaders now say this must change. But it is unclear whether they have the resolve to force through reforms, most of which are costly or opposed by powerful interests, or both. Li Keqiang, the new prime minister, is to host a national conference this year on urbanisation. The agenda may reveal how reformist he really is.

He will have no shortage of suggestions. An unusually public debate has unfolded in think-tanks, on microblogs and in state media about how China should improve the way it handles urbanisation. Some propose that migrants in cities should, as quickly as possible, be given the same rights to services as urban dwellers. Others insist that would-be migrants should first be given the right to sell their rural plot of land to give them a deposit for their new urban life. Still others say the government must allow more private and foreign competition in state-controlled sectors of the economy such as health care, which would expand urban services for all, including migrants. Most agree the central government must bear much more of the cost of public services and give more power to local governments to levy taxes.

Any combination of these options would be likely to raise the income of migrants, help them to integrate into city life and narrow the gap between the wealthy and the poor, which in China is among the widest in the world. Such reforms would also spur on a slowing economy by boosting domestic consumption.

Officials know, too, that the longer reforms are delayed the greater the chances of social unrest. “It is already a little too late,” Chen Xiwen, a senior rural policy official, said last year of providing urban services to migrants. “If we don’t deal with it now, the conflict will grow so great that we won’t be able to proceed.”

Yet Mr Li, the prime minister, would do well to dampen expectations. The problems of migrants and of income inequality are deeply entrenched in two pillars of discriminatory social policy that have stood since the 1950s and must be dealt with before real change can come: the household registration system, or hukou, and the collective ownership of rural land.”

via Urbanisation: Some are more equal than others | The Economist.

See also: https://chindia-alert.org/2013/05/14/right-thing-to-do-comes-with-a-price-tag/

14/05/2013

* Right thing to do comes with a price tag

Now we know why the Chinese government has been hesitant about correcting the rights of its vast migrant worker population. If the public expenditure required to turn a rural migrant worker into an urban citizen is estimated to be around 80,000 yuan ($12,664) in China, then the total for the estimated 230m migrant workers to be fully urbanised will cost some 3 trillion US dollars. A cost even China will find too large to handle in one go.

The Times: “100,000 … yuan is the estimated cost of turning a rural resident into a fully registered urbanite and providing them with all the healthcare, education and social security rights denied to China’s vast migrant worker population when they move to the cities.

Workers weld a standing on the roof of a building at the Guanyinqiao Pedestrian Street in Chongqing Municipality, China

Dangerously belated reform of China’s household registration — hukou — system may or may not be unveiled by Beijing this year. Clearly there is the political will, but officials mutter that the reform package is snagged on the details.

If that £10,600 estimate proves even close to reality (it’s a government estimate, so don’t expect too much from it) and if the reforms were tested initially on a limited basis to affect only 10 per cent of China’s overall migrant worker population, that would still cost about two trillion yuan (£211 billion). If the Government shouldered only a third of that (splitting the financial burden three ways with companies and employees), China would be paying more on this first blush of hukou reform than it is spending on its entire military budget.

But, according to the CLSA economist Andy Rothman, it would be money well spent. Grant migrant workers an urban household registration and all sorts of good things would happen. They would become consumers, they would become a more highly skilled and better-educated slab of workforce. They would be a less consistent source of social unrest.

For Beijing, it is painfully clear that foot-dragging on hukou reform is really not an option any more. If the Government flinches at the cost, the very considerable social implications or the politics of reform, China’s great urbanisation story could lurch from nice to nasty in short order. Miss the chance to reform and, at best, the whole programme of switching China’s growth model towards consumption stalls because tens of millions of migrant workers are forced to remain precautionary savers. They would remain unwilling to think of more than a small percentage of their income as disposable because, without an urban hukou, they are condemned to live without the protection of a welfare system.

At worst, the migrants create a permanent underclass in each of the 150 Chinese cities with populations of more one million. As the administration in Beijing knows well, this is not an underclass that could be relied on to behave itself: without reform, it will only grow angrier.

The problem, as usual, is one of scale. China’s 234 million migrant workers are unambiguously the backbone of the economy. Somebody has had to constitute an unlimited supply of labour and be prepared to work at a subsistence wage for the Chinese “miracle” to work at all. The migrants are those people. Migrant workers keep China’s factories humming, they cook, they clean, they funnel money from the cities to the countryside and, most symbolically, they built the place as 90 per cent of the construction industry workforce.

And the problem is that they all have mobile phones and internet access. Much though China would like to test out a bit of hukou reform on a smallish initial batch of 20 million people (equivalent to the population of Romania), as soon as that process began the other 210 million migrant workers (equivalent to the population of Indonesia) would start asking why some were receiving the blessing of urban residency and not others.

It’s an all-or-nothing game, unfortunately for Beijing, and that calculation of 100,000 yuan per person suddenly implies a £1 trillion burden for the State.”

via China in numbers: right thing to do comes with a price tag | The Times.

25/03/2013

* Wages Rising in Chinese Factories? Only For Some

Working in these Times: “If we are to take recent news reports at face value, the collective conscience of the worlds consumers can be eased, because conditions at Chinese factories are improving.

Last year, The New York Times told us that these workers are “cheap no more,” and just this February, the Heritage Foundation, touting the virtues of global free trade, claimed that Chinese factory wages have risen 20 percent per year since 2005. Foxconn, Apples major supplier and the manufacturer of approximately 40 percent of the worlds consumer electronics, says it will hold free union elections every five years.

But Pollyannas should take pause: The average migrant workers $320 monthly salary in 2011 was actually 43 percent less than the $560 national average, according to government statistics. And though its true that Foxconn will permit the election of union leaders, we have yet to see how much Chinas so-called democratic unions can empower the workers they purport to represent.

Skepticism and caveats aside, the reality is that the lot of formal production workers in China is indeed advancing, however slowly and painfully. But that is true only for formal workers. What many consumers and observers fail to note are the perilous conditions of Chinas temporary production workers and the increased tendency among Chinese factories to use such workers to manufacture the brand-name products that fill your home.

Factories supplying Apple and Samsung, for example, make heavy use of temp workers. According to official statistics, temp workers make up 20 percent of Chinas urban workforce of 300 million, though the proportion in individual factories often tops 50 percent. As China turns into a land of short-term workers, there are grave implications for labor, companies, and Chinese society.”

via Wages Rising in Chinese Factories? Only For Some – Working In These Times.

07/01/2013

* Use of student interns highlights China labor shortage

Reuters: “In September, the largest factory in the northeastern Chinese coastal city of Yantai called on the local government with a problem – a shortage of 19,000 workers as the deadline on a big order approached.

Chinese college students majoring in textile work at a garment factory in Jiaxing, Zhejiang province, October 19, 2012. More and more factories in China move inland from higher-cost coastal manufacturing centers, labor is turning out to be neither as cheap nor abundant as many companies believed. As a result, many multinationals and their suppliers are corralling millions of teenage vocational students to work long hours doing assembly line jobs that might otherwise go unfilled - jobs that the students have no choice but to accept. Picture taken October 19, 2012. REUTERS/Stringer

Yantai officials came to the rescue, ordering vocational high schools to send students to the plant run by Foxconn Technology Group, a Taiwanese maker of smartphones, computers and gaming equipment.

As firms like Foxconn shift factories away from higher-cost centers in the Pearl River Delta in southern Guangdong province, they are discovering that workers in new locations across China are not as abundant as they had expected.

That has prompted multinationals and their suppliers to use millions of teenage students from vocational and technical schools on assembly lines. The schools teach a variety of trades and include mandatory work experience, which in practice means students must accept work assignments to graduate.

In any given year, at least 8 million vocational students man China’s assembly lines and workshops, according to Ministry of Education estimates – or one in eight Chinese aged 16 to 18. In 2010, the ministry ordered vocational schools to fill any shortages in the workforce. The minimum legal working age is 16.

Foxconn, the trading name of Hon Hai Precision Industry, employs 1.2 million workers across China. Nearly 3 percent are student interns.

The company “has a huge appetite for workers”, Wang Weihui, vice director of the Yantai Fushan Polytechnic School, told Reuters during a recent visit to the city.

“It tightens the labor market,” said Wang, whose school sends its students to work at Foxconn and other firms.

Local governments eager to please new investors lean on schools to meet any worker shortfall. That’s what Yantai, in Shandong province, did in September when Foxconn had trouble filling Christmas orders for Nintendo Co Ltd Wii game consoles.

“It has been easier to recruit workers in the Pearl River Delta than some inland locations,” Foxconn told Reuters in written comments in late December.

Some companies cite rising wages in southern China for the shift elsewhere. Wages are a growing component of manufacturing costs in China, making up to 30 percent of the total depending on the industry, according to the Boston Consulting Group.

Wages began to rise around 2006 as the migration of rural workers to Guangdong ebbed. China’s one-child policy, plus a jump in higher education enrollment, further depleted the number of new entrants to the workforce, forcing up wages.”

via Use of student interns highlights China labor shortage | Reuters.

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