The average monthly income of China’s 269 million rural migrant workers stood at 2,609 yuan at the end of 2013, an increase of about 14 percent over the previous year, according to data from the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security.
Vice Minister Yang Zhiming said that migrant worker wages now represented more than half of the total income earned by China’s rural population. However, wage levels for migrant workers are still far below the average wage in the cities, which in 2012 stood at 3,897 yuan per month, according to the National Bureau of Statistics, still 50 percent higher than the figure for migrant workers last year.
Migrant workers are still overwhelmingly concentrated in low-paying industries, accounting for 81.8 percent of construction workers, 73.6 percent of the workers in manufacturing and 67.4 percent of workers in the service industry. Yang acknowledged that despite an increase in the number of migrant workers in the hi-tech sector, most migrant workers lacked the skills to obtain high-paying jobs.
The ministry data confirmed the on-going trend for migrant workers to find employment closer to home in the traditional labour exporting provinces of central China. The number of rural migrants working in China’s eastern coastal region decreased by 0.2 per cent last year, compared with an increase of 9.4 per cent in central China. The number of short-distance (本地) migrants increased by about four percent from 99 million to 103 million, while the number of long-distance (外出) migrants increased by less than two percent from 163 million to 166 million.
“Lower costs of living and a closer proximity to home and family mean that the attractiveness of these regions will only increase,” Yang said.
China Labour Bulletin’s new research report on the workers’ movement discusses in detail the extent to which factories in the traditional manufacturing provinces of south-eastern China are closing down and relocating to inland areas and examines to tensions this has caused in the workplace.