July 9, 2007 / 3:59 AM / 12 years ago

Chinese migrant workers say they are alienated

BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese migrant construction laborers are overworked, feel isolated from urban society and mostly lack basic insurance, state media reported on Monday, citing a survey.

The report comes after China’s rubber-stamp parliament passed a labor law giving greater protection to workers’ rights. It also follows a brick kiln slave labor scandal which prompted nationwide outrage.

Some 53 percent of migrant workers lacked an official contract and only 17 percent of workers with contracts understood their content, the China Daily said, citing a poll of 5,000 workers in several major cities by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, a government think-tank, and Beijing’s Tsinghua University.

Only 31 percent of polled workers regularly received their full salary on time, while nearly two-thirds lacked disability insurance, the paper said.

China’s breakneck industrialization has resulted in a rash of maimings, poisonings and deaths among workers who are often poorly trained and overworked.

Of China’s 120 million migrant workers flooding the country’s booming eastern cities, one in three worked in construction, the paper said, citing China’s labour watchdog, the All China Federation of Trade Unions.

Labour rights groups regularly accuse China of not doing enough to protect workers — most from impoverished rural areas who have moved to China’s booming eastern cities to find work — from unscrupulous employers who flout work safety rules and withhold salaries.

Parliament last month passed a new labour law giving greater protection to workers’ rights in the wake of the national furor over the use of kidnapped children and slave labour in brickworks in the northern province of Shanxi.

In addition to work-place abuses, migrant workers are regularly stigmatized by city dwellers who blame them for everything from crowded buses to street crime.

Only 20 percent of workers polled considered themselves urban residents, while 44 percent said they were “looked down on” by locals, the paper said.

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