Older migrant workers will be offered more assistance in finding suitable new jobs

Workers from central China’s Hubei province get off the train in Shenzhen, south China’s Guangdong province, March 19, 2020. [Photo/Xinhua]

In March, a news report about migrant workers caused a stir on Chinese social media.

The Workers’ Daily reported that many places, including Shanghai and Shenzhen in Guangdong province, had issued orders to remove older immigrants from construction sites for safety reasons.

In fact, Shanghai began to reduce its presence as early as 2019, when men aged 60 and over and women aged 50 and over were banned from working in construction. In addition, men over 55 and women over 45 cannot be assigned physically demanding tasks, such as working at high altitudes or deep in a mine.

Although well-intentioned, the policy generated mixed feelings among those facing imminent job losses.

“I’m still strong, so why am I not allowed to work?” a man complained in an interview with the newspaper.

Another interviewee was also critical, but expressed understanding: “I am old and physically not flexible, and if an accident happened, my family would be ruined.”

Construction sites have long been employing large numbers of men approaching the legal retirement age of 60.

Although they may come from different regions, they share great similarities: working hard far from their hometowns; inadequately trained to work in other industries; and be the main breadwinner for his extended family.

Although many are entitled to a rural pension when they retire, the two-track urban-rural pension fund system means that the sum would be small, especially if their children are still in university.

For decades, rural migrants have fueled China’s urbanization process by building properties and factories on the outskirts of the country’s rapidly expanding cities.

In April, the National Bureau of Statistics said the average age of China’s 292 million migrant workers was 41.7 years in 2021, a year-on-year increase of 3.6 months.

Meanwhile, the share of workers aged 50 and over increased by 0.9 percentage points to 27.3 percent in 2021. As these people age and find it harder to concentrate, laborious construction jobs, which often involve strict security protocols, they become more and more dangerous for them. to bring about.

Official data shows that in 2018, only 1 percent of Shanghai construction workers were over the age of 60, but those workers accounted for 15 percent of construction accident-related deaths.

Shanghai was one of several cities that provided support to help older workers develop new skills that would allow them to move into less physically demanding jobs.

However, the one-size-fits-all approach used in some places has prevented these workers from being fully employed, making their already cash-strapped lives worse.

Encouraging rural residents to seek better paying jobs in the city has been one of the main measures used by central authorities over the past decade to curb rural poverty, and it will also be used in the years to come to revitalize the countryside.

For example, authorities in Yunnan province, a previously impoverished area, said last month they had launched a 100-day campaign to help 15 million rural residents work outside their hometowns. Among them, more than 3.8 million worked outside the province.

Banning older immigrants from working threatens to push many to the brink of impoverishment, experts said.

In November, five central government agencies, including the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, and the National Rural Vitalization Administration, published a guideline that prohibits local authorities from firing older workers solely on age function. and encouraged them to offer employment services to those in need.

As part of the reform aimed at the urban-rural hukou, or household registration system, which generally prevents outsiders from enjoying local public services, the document called for localities to offer legal consultation on labor disputes and allow immigrants apply for unemployment benefits locally. .

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