Many migrant workers are excluded from China's social programs

May 14, 2020

Many migrant workers are excluded from China’s social programs

More than a fifth of China’s population have migrated from the countryside to join the urban workforce. These migrant workers have been indispensable to China’s economic growth but face exclusion from many social programs.

Social safety nets cover too few workers generally, but among migrant workers coverage is particularly scant. For example, almost half of the total urban workforce was covered by the unemployment insurance program in 2017 but only 17 percent of migrant workers participated in the scheme. The same imbalances occur in the country’s health, pension, and workers’ compensation programs. Eligibility requirements mandating formal employment represent a barrier to migrant worker participation.
The COVID-19 pandemic forced lockdowns which crippled major migrant employers like the service and retail sectors. The limited scope and scale of China’s social programs has left migrant workers in dire need.

This PIIE Chart was adapted from Tianlei Huang’s blog post, “China’s migrant workers need help in the economic downturn”.

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Tianlei Huang Research Analysts

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