To ensure rural migrants have easy access to social services in cities, the government set up migrant workers’ service centers, With subsidies and other incentives, the government encourages local employers to improve living conditions.
July 29, 2013: Every year in China, millions of rural residents migrate to cities for work. But when they do, many of them end up living in shantytowns. They lack the skills needed so they can make a decent living. Accessing basic social services tends to be difficult.
With support from the Institutional Development Facility (IDF), a World Bank grant facility, the Chongqing Municipality in southwest China has been working to address these challenges and improve the employment and living conditions of its five million rural migrant workers.
To ensure these new residents have easy access to social services when they need them, the government set up migrant workers’ service centers across the city.
At the Migrant Workers Service Center of Xinqiao Neighborhood, Tan Bingdong, who has been running a fruit stall in Chongqing for five years, came for help in finding a fixed location for selling fruit.
“I have to move from place to place. The constant changes make it difficult to sell my fruits,” he told Li Jun, a staff at the service center.
Li Jun recommended that Tan set up a stall to a market. “To do that, you need to first apply for a business license,” he said. He then explained the process to fill out the paperwork required for a business license.
Li Jun said the center receives about 200 to 300 rural migrants like Tan every month. “Most of them come here to register for a job, to look for training opportunities, or for assistance in protecting their rights,” he said.
“I feel that whatever question I have, I can find an answer here,” Tan said as he walked out of the center with a smile.
40-year old Liao Xianmei left her village in 2011 and landed job in a fine chemicals factory in Chongqing. Unlike many migrant workers whose first concern is where to live in the city, Liao got free housing from her employer. Liao found that there is a lot to enjoy, like the small library in the corporate campus, where she now hangs out a lot.
“After dinner I would come here to read or use the computer,” Liao said as she was reading a magazine. “I did not know how to use a computer before but the teacher in the library taught me how. I come here to have fun and relax.”
With subsidies and other incentives, the government encourages local employers to improve living conditions for migrant workers.
“Now we offer free dormitory and shower rooms, cafeteria with subsidized food, a library, and a basketball court for our employees,” said Zhou Yurong, Human Resources Manager at Lihong Fine Chemicals, where Liao works.
“More than 75% of our employees are rural migrant workers. These benefits help us retain them and motivate them to work hard,” Zhou said.
The Municipal Government of Chongqing also offers a range of free training courses for migrant workers so that they can be better prepared for the job market.
“Through training, I hope I’ll be able to find a job, make a living, and become self-reliant,” said 46-year old Long Fanghui. She is unemployed but is taking a course in professional baby care.
“The training is very lively, detailed but easy to understand,” she said. “It has boosted my confidence.”
Long said that what she appreciated most was the opportunity to learn new skills at her age.
“I am very enthusiastic about the training. No matter how busy I am with household chores, I will find time for it,” she promised.
Following their parents’ footsteps, the younger generation of rural residents continues to leave farms and pour into the cities to look for opportunities. They have a better chance of finding work but they struggle to adapt to urban living.
To help them, the government is encouraging local employers to invest in more on-the-job training so young migrants could have better career development and truly integrate into their adopted cities.
Pin Junjun, a 26-year-old new staff at a theme park in Chongqing, is taking pre-employment training.
“Through training, I learned about this park, about customer service and how to improve on my weaknesses,” said the new recruit who will soon work as a tour guide.
With these initiatives supported by the World Bank, from 2009 to 2011, Chongqing made great strides in providing basic services to migrant workers:
- 5,246 workers were placed in jobs
- 6,000 received training
- 18 training centers were set up
- 206 new dormitory rooms were built
- 4,829 cases were settled to protect workers’ rights
Other cities across China are making similar efforts to ensure that more migrant workers could feel as content and upbeat as those in Chongqing.