07/23/2020, 14.29
CHINA
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Post COVID-19 flooding causing misery for millions of migrant workers

At least 45 million people have been affected by floods, the worst in decades. The China Labour Bulletin reports that the government has overlooked rural areas. Migrant workers have been forced to return to their villages to help in relief efforts. Low-income households have been impoverished. Around 20 million low-paid workers are still unemployed.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews) –  As with the COVID-19 pandemic, migrant workers have been the most affected by China’s worst floods in decades, which are devastating large swathes of the country, especially the central provinces.

The China Meteorological Administration today issued a rain advisory for the coming days, including hurricane-force winds.

The Ministry of Water Resources said that 93 rivers remain above warning levels, and the Three Gorges dam, the biggest in the country, is constantly monitored.

Floods have so far affected 45 million people (with 142 reported dead and missing); material damage stands around 160 billion yuan (US$ 22.9 billion).

The Hong Kong-based China Labour Bulletin has reported that Chinese authorities have concentrated their aid efforts in large cities, leaving towns and rural areas to fend for themselves. In some areas, flood waters inundated factories and shops.

Many migrant workers rushed back to their home towns to help with the rescue operations because of the lack of government assistance.

Low-paid workers (especially women), who were on the frontlines of the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, have not been called once again into action to clean up debris caused by the floods in order to prevent stagnant water from becoming a breeding ground for disease.

Meanwhile, the flood emergency risks slowing down the post-pandemic economic recovery. Although official statistics indicate 3.2 per cent GDP growth in the second quarter of the year, after the 6.8 per cent drop recorded between January and March, unemployment remains high (5.7 per cent).

Even more serious is the loss of purchasing power of households. In the first six months of 2020, per capita income fell by 1.3 per cent, whilst per capita expenditure dropped by 9.3 per cent.

According to a recent study, 30 to 50 million migrant workers lost their jobs in late March because of the pandemic. Of these, 20 million were unable to resume work by mid-May, and those who found a job did so at lower wages.

The survey found that only a small minority of unemployed migrant workers had received unemployment benefits or income support.

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