Citizenization of Migrant Workers, Build a Modern Social System is the Key
Senior Researcher of Zinjin Media Think Tank
Dean, Professor and Doctoral Advisor of School of Social Development, Nanjing Normal University
The phenomenon of migrant workers will always exist in the long process of China’s modernization construction. It is an important practical issue at present and in the future and also a subject that must be studied in the modernization process. One of the important research issues is the new type of urbanization which mainly reflected in the citizenization of migrant workers, or we should say that transformation of the rural population is the substance of urbanization. Migrant workers are the concrete form of transforming the rural population into modern citizens, and the transformation is a dynamic process.
Based on this, we conducted a follow-up survey of migrant workers in Jiangsu province to consider the basic issues of the new urbanization strategy in accordance with the actual situation of migrant workers obtained from the survey. The questionnaire was conducted from July to August in 2016, and the samples were distributed in 10 cities of Jiangsu province. The contents of questionnaires included the basic information, working conditions, living conditions, social security conditions and so on.
I. Basic Conditions of Migrant Workers
i. Natural condition
In terms of gender, the number of men are much higher than that of women. In terms of age, migrant workers are mostly from the age of 26 to the age of 45.
ii. Education condition
The overall education level of migrant workers is low. Nearly half of them have just completed nine-year compulsory education and then entered into the labor market.
iii. Political status
Among the migrant workers surveyed, 81.3% of them are masses, 13.9% are the member of Communist Youth League, and 4.5% are member of the Communist Party.
iv. Working condition
The most primitive and basic motivation for migrant workers to come to the city is to find a job. The quality of employment determines the quality of their livings in the city.
1. Occupational skills
More than half of migrant workers have entered the labor market without occupational training or job skills training. The number of junior and intermediate workers account for 13.9% and 12.2% respectively, 56.3% do not have professional skills certificates, and only 5.6% are senior workers.
2. Character of the industry and work unit
The employment areas of migrant workers are mainly concentrated in the construction industry, manufacturing industry, hotel industry, and catering services industry. The number of migrant workers who are employed in the industries of finance, insurance, real estate, education, and culture is small.
3. Job search channels
The working fellows or relatives and friends are important contacts for migrant workers, which can be seen from their channels to find jobs. Some of them find jobs through modern recruitment platforms, such as various types of media, recruitment advertisements, and intermediaries, but these methods have not yet become mainstream.
4. Working time
About 1/3 of migrant workers have been working for more than 3 years in their current units, but more than 60% of migrant workers work less than 3 years in their current units. More than half of migrant workers work for 8 to 12 hours per day. It can be seen that their working hours are longer than others. This situation on the one hand shows that migrant workers want to get more economic income so that they are willing to work overtime; on the other hand, it is the nature of work for a fairly large number of migrant workers to work overtime.
v. Income and living expenses of migrant workers
There are various ways for migrant workers to obtain remuneration. However, the ways are lack of standardization, because migrant workers have different kinds of employment positions and it is difficult to standardize the regulations. Due to the different levels of education, age, employment positions, and employment status of migrant workers, their economic incomes are very different. The average monthly income of rural migrant workers from 2001 to 5,000 yuan accounted for 68.7%.
2. Living expenses
17.9% of the migrant workers will send back more than half of their incomes to home, 28.9% of them send 30% to 50% of their incomes back to home, 31.9% send 10% to 30% of their incomes, and 21.1% send less than 10% of their income back to home.
vi. Leisure life
On the whole, the leisure life of migrant workers is relatively monotonous. Their leisure time activities include sleeping, watching TV, listening to radio, surfing the Internet, chatting, playing cards, shopping, reading books and newspapers.
vii. Labor rights protection
According to the labor contracts migrant workers signed with employers, nearly half of the migrant workers are still informal employments when they enter into labor positions, and therefore the labor relationship between individuals and employing units is in an illegal state. The term of the contract is mainly 1 to 3 years. Seeking help from government departments, seeking legal assistance and handling the matter on their own are the top three methods for migrant workers to settle disputes. This shows that the self-protection and rights protection awareness of migrant workers have been greatly improved compared to the past.
viii. Education of migrant workers' children
In the question of “whether your spouse and child (children) live with you”, the survey shows that only 1/3 of the migrant workers live with their spouses and their children. A large number of migrant workers go out to work while their children become left-behind children. In the question of “the type of school your children enrolled in”, 34.7% chose to go to public school in the working place, 13.1% chose the migrant school for children, and 52.3% chose “the other”. In the question of “what problems you accounted when your children receive compulsory education”, 23.3% of them chose “high entry requirements”, 21.2% chose “complicated procedures,” and 55.5% chose “the other”.
ix. Length of residence in current place and housing problem
In the question of “continuous length of residence in current place”, more than 1/3 of migrant workers have lived in their current place of residence for more than five years, and their locations tend to be stable. In the question of “where do you live often”, most people rend houses, some of them are arranged by employers, a few live on the construction site, and very few migrant workers have their own houses in the city. In the question of “whether you have housing subsidies”, the vast majority of migrant workers did not have housing subsidies, and some people do not even know that they have housing subsidies.
x. Social security system development
A sound social security system is a basic feature of modern society and an important symbol for migrant workers to become citizens. Compared with 2009, the ratio of migrant workers participating in endowment insurance in the working places has increased significantly. However, according to the total rate of insurance coverage, the rate of joining insurance of migrant workers is still relatively low; the number of people participating in medical insurance in the working places has increased significantly, but more than half of migrant workers still have not participated in medical insurance; and more than half of them still have no work-related injury insurance.
In the question of “whether you have participated in pension insurance in your hometown”, more than 1/3 of migrant workers have pension insurance in their rural homes. In the question of “do you have medical insurance in your hometown?”, more than half of the migrant workers have. In the question of “whether you always pay the endowment insurance”, about 2/3 of the migrant workers continue to pay endowment insurance in rural areas.
xi. Most concerned issues and the expectations to the government
1. Most concerned issues at present
Among the migrant workers surveyed, income, children’s education, working time, social insurance, medical care, and working environment are the most concerned issues for migrant workers. The appeals of migrant workers need to be highly valued and many aspects of them are the starting points to achieve the livelihood work for migrant workers.
2. The expectations to the government
At present, the government-supported public services that are mostly expected by the migrant workers are: social insurance, housing security, children's education, employment services, skills training, medical care, rights and interests maintenance, culture and entertainment, and family planning. These aspects reflect, to a large extent, the actual difficulties faced by migrant workers in the workplace and their concerns about the future.
xii. Willingness to settle in cities and the difficulties of settling in
1. Willingness to settle in cities
Most migrant workers tend to settle in cities and become citizens. Nearly 30% of them (older migrant workers in general) are not willing to settle in cities. Due to various reasons, urbanization does not mean that all migrant workers should live in cities.
2. Difficulties of settling in
In the survey, the high cost of city life and high housing prices are the main obstacles for the migrant workers to settle in cities.
3. Self-perception for migrant workers to integrate into the cities they live
44.4% of migrant workers believe that they and their families can integrate into the city life. 39.4% of migrant workers and their families cannot clearly tell whether they are integrated into the city. Only 16.2% of migrant workers and their families think that they cannot integrate into city life because most of these people are old generations of migrant workers. For them, this choice should be rationally understood and we should not force all migrant workers to become citizens.
xiii. Views on related social policies
1. Views on providing public service
According to the survey data, it can be seen that most migrant workers are quite satisfied with the public services provided by the government.
2. Views on related social policies
The survey shows that most migrant workers now agree with the current government’s social policy on migrant workers.
3. Migrant worker’s satisfaction with the implementation of policies
According to the satisfaction of government’s promotion to make migrant workers equally enjoy the basic urban public services, 10.2% of the total number of migrant workers are satisfied with, 44.1% of people are basically satisfied, 12.3% of the total are unsatisfied, and 33.4% of the total are hard to express.
xiv. Future plan
1. Future plan
Migrant workers who work in cities have different plans for future goals. 27.8% of them want to learn a technology and make a successful career in the future, 8.0% of them want to become urban residents as soon as possible, and 25.0% of them would rather earn more even they would bear hardship, 5.0% want to earn respect from the society and their relatives and friends, 13.1% would return to their hometowns once they earned some money, 4.4% have less income but work stably, and 12.6% of them have no plan.
2. Whether migrant workers will return home to start business
40% of migrant workers want to return to their hometowns to start business in the future, which has positive significance for the development of the agricultural industry, the construction of new rural areas, and the coordinated development of the primary, secondary and tertiary industries as well as the optimization of human resources. Our social policies should help most migrant workers successfully integrate into cities and become citizens. At the same time, we must encourage some of the migrant workers to return to their hometowns to start business after they have learned technology, broadened their horizons and earned money so as to become a new generation of professional farmers.
II. Related policy suggestions of the citizenization of migrant workers
i. Simultaneous development of new type of modernization and new rural construction
According to the survey, a large number of migrant workers are willing to integrate into cities and become new type of citizens, while a small part of them will return home to start a business. Our social policy should not only follow the objective law of urbanization and attach great importance to the citizenization of migrant workers, but also build a new type of rural areas in the context of urbanization, which can integrate and coordinate the outflow of rural population, land transfer, changes in factors and appropriate land scale of operation, the establishment of new type of agricultural management system, the development of professional farmers, and the construction of beautiful rural areas.
ii. Adhere to diversified citizenization
In the process of citizenization of migrant workers, it is necessary to insist on diversified citizenization, which is to make urbanization in both near and distant places, and it should be conducted in small towns, small cities, and large and medium cities. Therefore, it is necessary to promote the rational resource allocation structure between small towns and large, medium-sized and small cities so as to create conditions for diversified citizenization.
iii. Rights and interests protection
To regulate labor employment, all migrant workers should sign labor contracts. It is strictly prohibited to default on the wages of migrant workers, and it should strictly implement the minimum wage system, and reasonably decide and timely adjust the minimum wage standard. Employing units should strictly implement the state’s provisions on employees' rest and vocation. If employer wants to extend workers’ working hours or require them to work on statutory holidays, they must seek the consent of migrant workers and pay overtime wages according to the law. Migrant workers should receive the same pay as others doing the same work. The fundamental aim for the protection of the rights and interests of migrant workers is to establish and improve a sound system and rule, and to put them into practice.
iv. Build occupational training system for migrant workers
The migrant workers' occupational training should be regarded as an important task. To improve the quality of products and the competitiveness of Chinese products in the international market, it is necessary to start with occupational training for workers. Establishing and improving the occupational training system for workers, lifelong education system, technical grade system, and technology assessment system have become the priority.
v. Ways to solve housing problems for migrant workers
To solve the housing problems for migrant workers, first, the employing units should provide migrant workers the same housing subsidies as those urban population, and establish the housing provident fund system for them; second, employing units which have relatively large number of migrant workers should provide dormitories for them; third, migrant workers who meet certain conditions should be involved into the urban housing security system.
vi. Social security system development for migrant workers
The social security system for migrant workers put endowment insurance, medical insurance, and work injury insurance as priorities. The endowment insurance should be gradually integrated, particularly, the urban and rural integration of endowment insurance, which should include all people in the same system, and divide into different grades so that different people can be benefited correspondingly.
The way to solve the problem of migrant workers' medical insurance is to include it in the category of medical insurance for urban workers, and to coordinate the population distribution and medical resources allocation, hierarchical classification of medical care system, integrated medical system construction, medical-insurance network, and medical treatment in different places.
The work-related injury insurance for migrant workers is very important. We must resolutely implement the requirements of the “Notice on Relevant Issues of Migrant Workers Participating in Work Injury Insurance” promulgated by the former Ministry of Labor and Social Security in 2004. Migrant workers must participate in the insurance and the employing unit must assume the necessary responsibilities.
vii. Solution to the education for migrant workers' children
(1) Expenditure on compulsory education should be paid by the central government. According to the number of students who attend school, the place where the children live and then they should go to the schools located in this place. (2) For migrant workers who meet certain conditions in working places, their children should enroll in full-time public primary and secondary schools. (3) The government of the place where migrant workers live and work must enhance the management of private primary and secondary schools, and make these qualified schools play their role in receiving the children of migrant workers.
The migrant workers are in the process of dynamic evolution along with economic and social changes. We should always grasp their dynamic changes. Therefore, the real situation of migrant workers from the front line is needed at any time, which is an important basis for the formulation of social policies, or we can see that the formulated social policies should respond to the status quo of migrant workers. The key to the transformation of migrant workers into urban inhabitants is to build a social system with modern ideas. And now is the crucial time for the formulation of the modern social system.
This article is an excerpt from Zou Nongjian:" New Strategy of the Urbanization from the Present Situation of the Migrant Workers", Journal of Beijing University of Technology (Social Sciences Edition), 2018, Vol. 18, No.1