Qiu Guihai's monthly salary was about 800 yuan (US$100) in 2002 when he began working in a watch factory in Foshan, in South China's Guangdong Province.
He has changed jobs several times to "pocket more money" over the past four years. But the 28-year-old farmer-turned-labourer's hopes of earning more remain dim. Qiu, from Nanxiong County in northern Guangdong Province, now earns 1,000 yuan (US$125) a month in a different watch factory in Foshan.
Qiu is not alone. Nearly 40 per cent of farmers-turned-labourers earn an average monthly wage of about 500-800 yuan (US$62-US$100), according to a recent survey conducted by the Research Office of the State Council.
The survey found that migrant workers who earn between 300-500 yuan (US$37-US$62) a month account for nearly 30 per cent of the total, while those earning more than 800 yuan (US$100) make up of about 28 per cent.
As an important income source for rural families, the wages of migrant workers have been slow to increase compared with the rapid rise in urban wages over the past few years.
"The slower increase of wages for migrant workers, to a large extent, hinders rural families' income growth," said Ma Xiaohe, deputy director of the Academy of Macroeconomic Research with the National Development and Reform Commission.
As a result, it is expected that China will continue to suffer a large income disparity between rural and urban areas this year, according to a blueprint by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
Per capita income in rural areas will reach about 3,500 yuan (US$415) this year, an increase of more than 5 per cent over last year, the blueprint said.
However, this year's increase ratio is lower than in 2005, which saw a 6.2 per cent increase over 2004, according to the blueprint. Per capita incomes in urban areas grew 9.6 per cent over the previous year.
"As rural areas benefit from the central government's new drive to build a 'new socialist countryside' during the 11th Five-Year Plan period (2006-10), farmers' income will continue to grow this year," Ma said.
In terms of building a "new socialist countryside," the central government allocated a budget expenditure of 339.7 billion yuan (US$42 billion) this year, 42.2 billion yuan (US$5.2 billion) more than last year.
However, the widening income gap between rural and urban areas will continue this year and farmers' consumption capability will remain low, according to Ma.
Ma blamed the widening gap on the low wages of farmers-turned labourers remaining static, and the relatively low price of agricultural products.
Source: China Daily