04/07/2009, 00.00
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At least 11 million migrant workers drift back into the big cities in search of work

According to data from the National Bureau of Statistics, government policy designed to reintegrate migrant workers in home villages has failed. Fears are growing that social unrest might grow.
Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – About 11 million rural migrants are currently seeking employment in China’s cities, this according to a new survey by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). For the China Labour Bulletin, which specialises in labour issues, this is a sign that government employment policies are failing to help migrant workers reintegrate their places of origin and find a job.

The NBS survey of 68,000 rural households in 7,100 villages across the country estimated that the total number of rural workers not engaged in agriculture was about 225 million, with 141 million employed outside their home town. About 50 per cent of these rural migrant workers (70 million) returned home before the Lunar New Year holiday.

In 2008 62.4 per cent of all returning migrants were employed in the eastern provinces where the manufacturing and construction sectors were hardest hit by the collapse of exports. Of these workers 36 per cent were employed in manufacturing and 28 per cent in construction.

About 56 million migrant workers have returned to the cities and around 45 million have already found employment.

The survey indicates that older migrants with stronger roots to the countryside have tended to stay in their home towns where they have often created their own businesses.

But of the estimated 14 million unemployed who stayed in their home towns some 12 million have yet to find a job; it is likely however that they are working for themselves or in the underground economy.

Faced with tens of thousands of plant closures the central government has encouraged migrants to go back to their home towns and villages. But in rural areas employment is scarce and poorly paid.

The large number of unemployed in the cities is cause of concern to central authorities. For months they have been warning about social unrest.

According to the Interior Ministry about 87,000 incidents of mass protest occurred last year for economic reasons.

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