|Stop Paying Lip Service to Woes of Migrant Workers|
|Tuesday, 14 April 2009 05:49|
Migrant workers in cities like Shanghai have been fighting in the last week to get train tickets home for the annual Spring Festival reunion with families and loved ones.
The scene in Shanghai was appalling.
Long lines were seen wrapping around hundreds of ticket offices across the city. Outside of Putuo Stadium, a temporary venue selling train tickets, more than 2,000 people queued up overnight in the cold and rain.
The hopes of many were dashed when they were told after many hours of waiting that the tickets for the next 10 days were sold out. Many had to start all over again, standing in the lengthy line for a ticket ten days later.
Through the intervention of Mayor Han Zheng, those people were finally allowed to queue inside the stadium, although a ticket home was still not guaranteed due to an inadequate railway transport capacity and inept management.
The mayor's mediation certainly made the lives of those farmers-turned-workers less miserable during the wet cold nights. But those who expect migrant workers to be tearfully grateful for this symbolic gesture are ignoring the dire reality.
Why was there no giant screen board or broadcast service informing people that some trains were completely booked so many didn't even have to waste time in the lines?
Why were the ticket offices not open 24 hours a day since there was such a huge demand?
Why were there not enough volunteers making those in line feel more comfortable and respected? And why did the move to open the stadium come so late?
These actions are certainly not rocket science for a city like Shanghai, or China's other major cities, where migrant workers suffer from similar situation.
The fact is that most big cities in China have not paid enough attention to the lives of millions of migrant workers, who are essential to the life and economy of those metropolises.
Without millions of migrant workers, Shanghai could not have built its futuristic skyline and 4,000 high-rises in the last two decades. Without these migrant workers as low-cost labor, many companies would be less competitive in both the domestic and world markets.
Without those farmers-turned-workers, there simply would be few sweeping streets, delivering milk, waiting tables in restaurants or providing housekeeping services. In fact, Shanghainese have already panicked since many of them are going home during the upcoming Chinese Lunar New Year.
It's likely no one would dispute the important role of migrant workers, but how many have treated those people with full respect and as their equals?
Migrant workers, mostly filling low paying jobs, have to spend much more than locals if they want to send their children to a school in Shanghai or many other cities. And schools solely for migrant workers' children are usually ill-equipped and poorly staffed.
Most migrant workers are doing the most dangerous urban jobs. They are usually the victims of industrial accidents and occupational diseases, but they have not been included in the city's social security net.
These people usually live in dirty, crowded shanties next to the glitzy high-rises they are building. They eat the cheapest food from street vendors that are often the cause of food poisoning.
After a whole year of hard work, many even have to worry about back pay.
Stories like the long queues and many others about migrant workers should be put a stop. All these people have asked is a ticket home and some other basic needs.
We should stop paying lip service to the woes of migrant workers. Their health care and their children's education should be a priority for the government authorities, as stipulated in the State Council document of guidelines on addressing issues relating rural workers. The document was made public on January 19.
We should provide them with a dignified place to stay in fast modernizing cities. We should grant them full urbanites' status.
China's urbanization and surplus rural laborers mean more migrant workers will come to the city every year. We should not waste time and need to start to solve the problem effectively.
|Last Updated on Wednesday, 15 April 2009 03:21|