China - Discrimination and abuse of migrant workers (2012)

Institutionalised discrimination against migrant workers from rural areas remains a serious problem despite recent legislation. They suffer from low wages and excessive working hours. One ACFTU survey found young migrant workers still earn around half the salary of urban workers. This especially holds for migrants working in construction sites and small construction venues where workers have few avenues for redress in the event of non-payment of wages or other abuses.

In April, 18 migrant workers died in a fire while locked in an illegally constructed garment factory near Beijing. All are presumed to be migrant workers. 23 others were injured. The fire led to some 80,000 migrants being expelled from the district which was home to hundreds of small and often illegal workshops. Nearby factories lowered their salaries to mop-up the now unemployed migrant workers. In June, alleged rumours of the beating to death of a pregnant migrant hawker led to three days of rioting in south China. At least 19 migrants were reportedly arrested although workers report at least 100 were detained. Clashes also occurred in nearby Chaozhou, where hundreds of migrant workers demanding unpaid wages at a ceramics factory attacked government buildings and set vehicles ablaze.

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