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People's Daily Online>>China Society

Farmers find city life unfair: report

By Huang Jingjing (Global Times)

10:49, December 20, 2011

Nearly 30 percent of farmers have moved to urban areas, but most of them are unable to enjoy the same benefits as other city dwellers, such as labor insurance, says an authoritative report.

About 29.7 percent of farmers no longer engage in agricultural work but have moved to urban areas, according to the 2011 Blue Book of China's Society published yesterday by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS).

However, only 30 percent of semi-urbanized or urban residents with agricultural hukou (household registration) said they have pension funds, compared with 63 percent of those with urban hukou, showed a survey conducted by CASS between July and November.

The survey was conducted in the form of door-to-door interviews among 6,468 people above 18 years old across the country, and showed that only 37.9 percent of the semi-urbanized population had work contracts. For fully urbanized citizens, the figure was 75 percent.

"The authorities urgently need to make some changes to the system to protect the rights and interests of migrant workers. Otherwise, more problems such as mass demonstrations or strikes for justice and withheld payments will occur," Lu Xueyi, director of the China Rural Sociology Research Institute and a contributor to the book, told the Global Times after the press conference marking its publication.

The book attributed the gap to the slow reform of the hukou system. Lu stressed that the main barrier is the outdated urban management service.

According to the latest census results published in April, there were 665 million urban residents in the mainland, or 49.68 percent of the total population. The number is expected to rise to above 50 percent this year, as more farmers leave for urban areas, the book said.

"In 1978, there were 172 million urban residents under the administration of 4,444 urban neighborhood offices. But now the number has nearly doubled, while the number of offices has only expanded to 6,923," Lu said, noting that city management needs to be greatly improved.

Though most urban respondents said they welcomed migrant workers, about 13 percent said they were reluctant to make friends with them and 29 percent were unwilling to let their children marry anyone without an urban hukou.

About 47.52 percent of semi-urbanized interviewees who had lived in urban areas for over five years said they still felt like foreigners.

Li Wei, director of the Institute of Sociology with CASS and deputy editor of the book, told the Global Times more services should be offered to give assistance to workers involved in labor disputes.

The number of labor dispute cases received by arbitration and mediation institutions in the first nine months of this year reached 933,000, up by 55.3 percent from last year's total, according to the book.

Inflation, medical care and the income gap between poor and rich still remain the top three concerns of the public. Meanwhile, over 75 percent said their living standards had gone up over the past five years, according to the book.

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