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New Statistical Report on Migrant Workers Released

In April, the National Bureau of Statistics released its latest annual report on Chinese migrant workers. According to this document, in 2017 China had a total of 286.52 million migrant workers, an increase of 4.81 million or 1.7 percent from the previous year. At the same time the migrant population is clearly aging: for the first time those born after 1980—the so-called ‘new generation of migrant workers’ (xinshengdai nongmingong)—make up more than half of all migrants. The report also hints at significant changes in the employment structure, with a gradual decline of occupation in the manufacturing (–0.6 percent) and construction sectors (–0.8 percent), and an increase (+1.3 percent) in the service sector. Average monthly wages grew by 6.4 percent to 3,485 yuan, but growth was 0.2 percent slower than the previous year, likely due to the minimum wage freeze in places like Guangdong since 2016. This year’s report adds a new satisfaction indicator, with 56.1 percent of migrant workers declaring that they are very satisfied with their current living situation. The report suggests that the Chinese government improve housing and education opportunities for migrants and their children in order to promote migrants’ social integration in the cities. The report also reveals that migrants have become more likely to report labour to government bureaus and use legal mechanisms, and that they are slightly less likely to negotiate directly with their employers—a finding which might reflect either improved government responsiveness or a weakening of migrant workers’ bargaining power. Notably absent compared to previous reports is a section on rights protection, including statistics on overtime, labour contract coverage, and wage arrears. Labour contract coverage has been in decline for several years in a row—in 2016 it was down to only 35.1 percent from 43.9 percent in 2012. Also absent in this new report are data on unionisation and migrant workers’ awareness of unions. KL

(Sources: National Bureau of Statistics)

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