Making the difference

Updated: 2012-05-25 08:25

By Zhao Yanrong (China Daily)

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 Making the difference

Lin Deju, director of the Kangcui Committee. Zhao Yanrong / China Daily

Outreach programs help migrant labor find urban footing

Making young Chinese migrant workers more aware of their rights and formulating right measures to promote their wellbeing continue to be key goals for policymakers, as China is looking for ways and means to mitigate the risks of an impeding labor crunch.

The Millennium Development Goal Achievement Fund (MDG-F), a $6.6 million (5.2 million euros) three-year program jointly funded by the United Nations, Spain and China, had to a large extent made considerable progress on the issue.

Though the program ended in February this year, the Chinese government, which had contributed more than $1 million for the fund, seems set to build on its gains to further improve the conditions for migrant labor across the country.

More than 400,000 young migrant workers from rural areas, civil servants and community service providers spread across six cities - Tianjin, Xi'an, Hangzhou, Shenzhen, Changsha and Cangzhou - have benefited from the program. The pre-employment training under the program provided migrant labor access to better jobs and safer working conditions.

"We feel that the program is too short, and we can do much better if time permits," says Wang Ying, director of the joint program office.

According to Wang, research findings and policy recommendations on migrant workers' urban integration have played an important role in setting the population policy and social development goals under the 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-15).

The employment training center, under the aegis of the program, will continue to provide training courses in 192 counties across China from where most of the migrant labor comes from, primarily as a pre-employment support for young workers.

"We want to provide a way of thinking for local governments and civil organizations to help better understand the issues and concerns of young migrant workers. We believe such programs will be beneficial for making local policy decisions and help in the progress of urbanization," Wang says.

Such outreach programs are now being seen as increasingly important as the influx of migrant labor into cities has also brought with it the problem of integration with the local communities.

Kangcui Community was one of the zones selected under the program to pilot the successful integration with the Tianjin Economic-Technological Development Area (TEDA). The TEDA is home to more than 3,300 foreign companies and 140,000 migrant workers, with more than 70 percent of the migrant workforce aged between 18 and 27.

At the Kangcui Community, the integration program has as its core the mutual recognition of young migrants and local residents.

According to Lin Deju, director of the Kangcui Committee, many young migrants participate in volunteer events like environmental protection along with their neighbors, mostly local residents.

Lin says this is a major achievement of the program, as in the past migrant workers did not pay much attention to the environment. To address the problem, Lin recruited a volunteer team made up of both migrant labor and local residents to clean up the community, and patrol the area to protect the environment.

"The volunteer events helped educate the young migrants that they have an obligation to serve the local community and that they are a part of it. The program also provides a chance for better communication and understanding between migrants and local residents," she says.

Though the formal program ended some months ago, at the Kangcui Community it is business as usual. Migrant workers at the Kangcui community have the same voting rights as the local residents. Children of migrant labor have equal access to education, while healthcare benefits have also been brought on par with the local residents.

"We want to build a more open community to ensure young migrant workforce has easy access to all the resources that can improve their daily lives and contribute to overall development," Lin says.

Li Xiang contributed to this story.

(China Daily 05/25/2012 page5)