Every year in China, millions of rural residents migrate to cities for work. But when they do, many of them end up living in shantytowns. They lack the skills needed so they can make a decent living. Accessing basic social services tends to be difficult.
With support from the Institutional Development Facility (IDF), a World Bank grant facility, the Chongqing Municipality in southwest China has been working to address these challenges and improve the employment and living conditions of its five million rural migrant workers.
To ensure these new residents have easy access to social services when they need them, the government set up migrant workers’ service centers across the city.
At the Migrant Workers Service Center of Xinqiao Neighborhood, Tan Bingdong, who has been running a fruit stall in Chongqing for five years, came for help in finding a fixed location for selling fruit.
“I have to move from place to place. The constant changes make it difficult to sell my fruits,” he told Li Jun, a staff at the service center.
Li Jun recommended that Tan set up a stall to a market. “To do that, you need to first apply for a business license,” he said. He then explained the process to fill out the paperwork required for a business license.
Li Jun said the center receives about 200 to 300 rural migrants like Tan every month. “Most of them come here to register for a job, to look for training opportunities, or for assistance in protecting their rights,” he said.
“I feel that whatever question I have, I can find an answer here,” Tan said as he walked out of the center with a smile.
40-year old Liao Xianmei left her village in 2011 and landed job in a fine chemicals factory in Chongqing. Unlike many migrant workers whose first concern is where to live in the city, Liao got free housing from her employer.
Liao found that there is a lot to enjoy, like the small library in the corporate campus, where she now hangs out a lot.
“After dinner I would come here to read or use the computer,” Liao said as she was reading a magazine. “I did not know how to use a computer before but the teacher in the library taught me how. I come here to have fun and relax.”
With subsidies and other incentives, the government encourages local employers to improve living conditions for migrant workers.
“Now we offer free dormitory and shower rooms, cafeteria with subsidized food, a library, and a basketball court for our employees,” said Zhou Yurong, Human Resources Manager at Lihong Fine Chemicals, where Liao works.
“More than 75% of our employees are rural migrant workers. These benefits help us retain them and motivate them to work hard,” Zhou said.