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July 2012 Volume 19 Number 3
The National Bureau of Statistics (www.stats.gov.cn) reported in April 2012 that 159 million migrant workers earned an average 2,049 yuan ($325) a month in 2011. Chinese migrant workers worked an average 25 days a month and 8.8 hours a day, earning $1.50 an hour. For the first time, 53 percent of China's internal migrant workers were employed away from their village at least six months, but these internal migrants were in their home province rather than another province.<< back
The Beijing News reported 250 million migrants in 2011 earning an average of 2,049 yuan ($304) a month, with the number of migrants up by 10.5 million between 2010 and 2011. Fewer new migrants are moving to traditional destinations in the Yangtze and Pearl River Deltas.
Many economists favor full freedom of movement for Chinese, emphasizing that allowing people the opportunity to move from rural to urban areas will benefit migrants as well as the cities to which they move, while rural areas receive remittances. These arguments have not convinced most local governments, which argue that giving rural-urban migrants more rights will require them to build more housing, schools and hospitals.
There are about 700 million urban and 600 million rural residents in China. However, 200 million urban residents, almost 30 percent, do not have urban hukous or residence permits. Shanghai has 23 million residents, including 7.5 million who are between 20 to 34; 60 percent of these young workers are rural-urban migrants.
Migrants are entitled to government-provided education and health care in the place where they are registered, which is often a rural village. Some state-owned enterprises offer urban hukous to recruit professionals; urban hukous can also be obtained via purchase or marriage. However, most migrants find it very hard to obtain an urban hukou, which increases uncertainty about whether they can remain in urban areas and promotes high levels of savings. One side effect of restricting rural-urban migration is that high savings keep consumption relatively low despite rapid economic growth.
The Chinese government is trying to stimulate the economy by providing funds from state banks for projects carried out by state-owned enterprises. Local leaders have incentives to develop projects, some of which may not be economic, by developing links to the leaders of local banks and enterprises. The arrest of Chongqing mayor Bo Xilai in April 2012 highlighted the efforts of one provincial leader to rise in the national hierarchy with an ambitious investment program. Chongqing had the fastest growth rate among Chinese cities in 2011, over 16 percent, fueled by $160 billion in debt assumed by the municipal government and local state-owned companies.
In 2010, the Chinese government launched a program to induce Chinese living abroad to return. Under this return-of-talent program, experienced university professors and researchers, particularly in the sciences and technology, can receive $158,000 if they return to China, plus housing subsidies and tax exemptions if they live in government-designated districts.
In 2011, some 160,000 Chinese students were enrolled in US universities.
There were media reports in July 2012 of plans to send up to 40,000 North Korean workers to China as industrial trainees. North Koreans have been working illegally in northeast China, but the trainee program would mark the first time that this migration is formalized in a guest worker program.
Taiwan. Vietnamese migrants are considered hard-working, but many run away from the employers to whom they are assigned, in part because many employers deduct high recruitment costs incurred in Vietnam, $5,000 to $6,000, from migrant wages. About 6,000 Vietnamese migrants a month abandon their employers in Taiwan. Since 2003, almost 35,000 runaway Vietnamese were deported; 15,000 remain in Taiwan.
Vietnam in April 2012 promised to strengthen controls over recruiters to limit fees to a maximum of $3,800 for a three-year contact, including a maximum $800 for the agent. In addition, migrants will have to post $1,000 as a bond that is forfeited if the migrant runs away.