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Protecting migrant workers’ wages benefits economy

Updated: Feb 5,2017 7:30 AM

Protecting migrant workers’ legal rights, one of the Premier Li Keqiang ‘s top concerns, is beneficial for social employment and the economy, a Chinese business media said on Feb 4.

According to a comment by China Business Network, wage arrears is one of the top factors that hinder migrant workers from hunting for jobs. So solving this problem will help create a fair job market in which farmers feel safe to leave their homes and work in cities.

To achieve full employment, labor should flow freely and fairly, Premier said at the State Council executive meeting on Feb 3, the first working day after the Spring Festival holiday.

It is an established phenomenon in China that the peak time migrant workers leave home for work comes after Spring Festival.

Premier Li said the government should put forward a long-term solution to protect the rights of migrant workers, and ensure they are paid on time. It is a significant measure in the government’s proactive employment policy, he said.

During Premier’s visit to Southwest China’s Yunnan province on Jan 23, several migrant workers complained to him about back pay they were owed. He was angry and immediately urged authorities to get the workers the money they deserved.

Just 48 hours later, these workers got their wages back.

According to data by the National Bureau of Statistics in 2015, the number of migrant workers in China is as large as 270 million, accounting for nearly 20 percent of the population.

Migrant workers who’ve left the farm now can freely choose jobs in the labor market. “They have made great contributions to China’s development and reform”, the Premier said, adding that the ‘demographic dividend’ created by such a labor flow was a crucial factor in the success of China’s economy in the past decades.

Although there is debate on whether the dividend has vanished, the benefit that rural labor brings to the economy will continue if the government protects the labor market well. That’s because a large amount of labor has yet to leave farmland.

In addition, protecting migrant workers’ rights concerns social justice. Every migrant worker is the breadwinner of a family. So withholding back pay not only hurts the worker, but also hurts everyone in the family.

“It is the bottom line of social justice,” the Premier said.