06/03/2022, 13.36
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Millions of internal migrants out of work: Xi's 'common prosperity' just a slogan

Over 50s can't find work and receive no welfare benefits. Those who stay in the countryside earn €1,400 a year, but the cost of living is three times that amount. The economic crisis does not help. Premier Li Keqiang called on to repair the damage caused by Xi's "mini Great Leap Forward".

Beijing (AsiaNews) - The "common prosperity" invoked by Xi Jinping to redistribute national wealth is increasingly revealing itself to be a mere slogan, especially for millions of migrant workers over 50. Many of them are unable to find work due to stringent recruitment and job security regulations, especially in the manufacturing and construction industries. And without even being able to benefit from social shock absorbers.

According to data published in April by the National Bureau of Statistics, 300 million internal migrants moved in search of work in 2021: 80 million were over 50 years old, around 27% of the total.  They mostly come from the rural areas of China, and only if they move to cities with a population of less than three million will they have the chance to obtain residency, and thus access to local health and social facilities.

Staying in their places of origin is almost impossible for them. As Caixin reports, on average a Chinese farmer has a plot of just under one hectare. After deducting cultivation costs, it yields about 10,000 yuan (1,400 euro) a year; a rural family of three, however, needs at least 30,000 yuan (4,200 euro) a year to live.

Fleeing the countryside to the cities, older migrant workers are often forced to work on short-term contracts for small on-call jobs. Even worse, many of them work without a contract, with the employer not providing them with any social insurance. According to figures provided by Caixin, as of June 2020, only 63.8 million migrant workers were covered by company pension schemes (22% of the total).

In 2018, a Peking University survey revealed that among rural retirement-age residents only 6.3% of respondents were eligible for the basic state pension plan, compared to 77% of urban residents. In the countryside, the average state pension for an over-60 person is 100 yuan (EUR 14) per month, while in urban centres it is 2,500 yuan (EUR 350) for someone who has worked in a company.

The problem for China's internal migrants is that the national economy is faltering as a result of Xi's 'zero-covid' policy and the tight controls the president has imposed over the past two years on the real estate, technology and private education sectors.

Called upon to repair the damage caused by Xi's 'mini Great Leap Forward', Premier Li Keqiang has expressed fears of possible negative growth in the coming months - according to some experts, this is already the case. Downward indicators for employment, industrial production, energy consumption and freight transport would point to as much.

Last week in a large video conference with 100,000 administrators representing 2,800 municipalities, Li launched a growth-oriented economic recovery plan, which is once again the focus of the government, following Xi's emphasis on the quality of economic output. In the meantime, however, the premier issued a new warning against the false statistics presented by local authorities, which would prevent them from achieving the targeted results. In view of this, Li has set up a government task force to check that the leaders of 12 provinces are not cheating the accounts (for personal gain).

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