Migrant workers and their children suffer most in China's turbulent economy

Feng Xianfa is a 30 year-old father of two who moved to Shengze, China's "Silk Capital," in search of work in the booming textile industry. When the economy took a severe downturn early this year and the factories scaled-back production, unskilled migrant workers like Feng and his wife Hu Jinmei were the first to be discarded.
In a recent report by China Central Television on the plight of migrant workers in Shengze (translated by CLB), Feng said his entire family had just 1,300 yuan (US$190) a month to live on. They could afford to buy daily necessities but nothing more. They no longer had enough money to keep their seven year-old son with them in the city and had sent him back to their hometown.
Their son is one of an estimated 58 million children of migrant workers "left behind" in the countryside, most of whom have no direct parental supervision. A new in-depth study by CLB details the wide-range of social and educational problems faced by these children. They are more likely to be victims of crime and a significantly higher proportion suffers from psychological and behavioral problems caused by long-term separation from their parents.
Subsequent studies will focus on the children who stay with their parents in the cities and face systematic discrimination that limits them to expensive and sub-standard schools and healthcare facilities. In addition, CLB will soon publish a concise analysis of the Chinese government's new policies and initiatives designed to improve migrant worker residence rights, healthcare and education.
Many migrant workers are not prepared simply to sit back and wait for the government to help them, and have taken matters in to their own hands. On 1 September 2008, Huang Weimu walked into Guangzhou's Panyu District Labour Bureau and demanded 55,334 yuan for the past five month's work done at the Huizhi Garment Factory. Huang had worked "undercover" at the factory, stealthily collecting evidence of labour violations before exposing these abuses on the internet.
Migrant workers are clearly the most abused and exploited members of the workforce. Indeed, some 90 percent of CLB's labour rights litigation work involves migrant workers. From June 2007 to June 2008, CLB and its partner organizations adopted close to 600 new labour rights cases, involving more than 650 worker plaintiffs and concluded about 315 cases in this period. The worker plaintiffs won in more than 95 percent of the concluded cases, obtaining compensation for work-related injury, recovering unpaid wages, getting job reinstatement, or obtained other benefits such as labour insurance payouts. In total, the workers obtained 9.42 million yuan (about US$1.4 million) in compensation and other benefits.
A labour rights litigation case in China can be successfully concluded for as little as US$500, with the average cost around US$700. If you would like to support our ground-breaking litigation work and other projects in defense of workers' rights in China, you can donate money through Paypal, by cheque or wire transfer to CLB or Friends of China Labour Bulletin, a U.S. tax-exempt organization registered with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service under Article 501(c)(3) of the tax code. All donations are very gratefully received.
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