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August 1995, Volume 2, Number 8

Surplus of Chinese Farmers

The Chinese vice premier says that China will face major social and political problems if it does not find work for the nearly 200 million farmers who will be unemployed by the year 2000. Of the 120 million current surplus farmers, nearly 80 million have already left farm work for urban areas. Though the farmers have helped meet the current urban labor shortages, they are blamed for increased crime, overcrowded transport system and a rise in birth rate.

Two Chinese economists have called on the government to change the household registration system to make it easier for farmers to move to the cities, where they earn money to send home and learn skills. In the first six months of 1995, the average rural resident earned US$ 91, while his urban cousin earned US$ 237, official figures show.

A July 9 front-page editorial in the People's Daily said that the rural exodus of peasants seeking work in cities is straining urban facilities and causing labor shortages in rural areas. The editorial coincided with the opening of a national conference on migrants.

In order to stem the flow of farmers to the cities, the newspaper urged the government to strengthen agricultural production and develop small township enterprises to provide other sources of employment.

The State Bureau of Foreign Experts is trying to resolve disputes between foreign experts and their Chinese employers. Such disputes often arise when Chinese employers do not live up to contract terms involving air transportation, pay, and working and living conditions. Some foreign experts demand more holidays and sometimes leave their jobs without notice.

China employs about 30,000 foreign experts each year, 30 percent of whom work for universities, publishing houses, research institutes and hospitals.

Tibet's Dali Lama has claimed that thousands of ethnic Han Chinese immigrants are streaming into Tibet as part of a Chinese plan to overwhelm the local Tibetan population.

The vice-chair of the regional Tibetan government counters that there are 18,000 Han working in Tibet, accounting for less than 30 percent of the workers employed by the government. Most of the workers will return to their home provinces when they reach 30 years of age.

Tibet has a population of two million. Han visitors are not permitted to become citizens of Lhasa or rural farmers.

Mark O'Neill, "China faces problem of 200 million unemployed farmers by 2000," Reuters, July 26, 1995. "China's rural migrants threatening stability," Agence France Presse, July 9, 1995. "Foreign Experts: Harmony is New Approach for Foreign experts," Xinhua News Agency, July 6, 1995.