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Survey finds young migrants still earn around half the salary of urban workers

Despite recent increases in the minimum wage, the nearly 100 million young migrants who drive China’s factories are still earning around half the income of urban residents, according to an extensive survey by the All-China Federation of Trade Unions.

The survey of 1,000 enterprises, published on 21 February, found that migrant workers under 30 years of age earned 1,748 yuan per month on average, compared with the 3,047 yuan per month earned by urban residents.

Of those workers who had been involved in labour disputes last year, one third said low pay was by far the most important factor. And several interviews (around five percent) said they were not even being paid the minimum wage.

Although 85 percent of the young migrants interviewed had signed labour contracts, the proportion of those with social security insurance was much lower, especially when compared with the rates for urban workers. Some 77 percent of young migrant workers had medical insurance, 56 percent had unemployment insurance and only 31 percent had maternity insurance. See chart below showing the percentages of younger migrant workers and urban workers with pensions, medical insurance, unemployment insurance, work-injury insurance, maternal insurance and housing insurance..


Taken from ACFTU 2010 survey of new migrant workers

Work safety remains a major problem, the report found, with around one third of young workers having to endure extreme temperatures and noise. Some 36 percent said mechanical problems often led to injuries at work, and 35 percent worked in a high dust environment. However, 21 percent of respondents had not received any safety training, and only 52 percent had been given a health check up in the last year.

Moreover, nearly two thirds of the young migrant workers surveyed said they had not received any kind of job training since taking up their position.

The number of young migrants joining a trade union was considerably lower than that of older migrant workers, suggesting that the official trade union is struggling to reach the new generation of migrants. Nearly half the younger workers interviewed (48 percent) said they were not members of a union, while 56 percent of the older workers were union members. Around six percent of both groups were not sure if they were in a union or not.

The results of the survey confirm that nearly all of the problems that have traditionally affected migrant workers, low pay, long hours and poor working conditions remain unresolved. Indeed, for young migrant workers with higher expectations than their parents, life may even be worse.