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August 1, 2009

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Plan to end isolation felt by migrants

WITH a moderate income and close contact with a few fellow villagers, migrant worker Zhang Wei lives a happy life ... but he still feels somewhat emotionally isolated from the city in which he works.

"We live together, have our own vegetable market and the whole life circle. I am almost always with fellow villagers from central China's Hunan, my native province," said Zhang. "We are just like an 'isolated island' in Kunming and have not been really integrated into local communities."

Zhang came to the provincial capital of southwestern China's Yunnan Province about a year ago. His job as a construction survey worker earns him 2,200 yuan (US$322) a month. But with the exception of a few words with his landlord, he has almost no contact with Kunming locals.

Like Zhang, tens of millions of farmers from China's rural areas have gone to cities for work over the past decade. But due to the urban-rural gap and other institutional problems, migrant workers tend to be marginalized in cities in both rights and interests.

Currently, the country has more than 130 million migrant workers. Some of them have decided to stay in cities for the rest of their life. It is necessary to solve the "indifferent relationship" between urbanites and migrant workers.

"The nature of the problem that new migrant workers face is their adaptation to and integration into city life," said Zhou Daming, chief expert for a survey project launched in January 2008.

The project of the Ministry of Education is aimed at finding out the problems that migrant workers face and formulating policies to remove the "indifference" between migrant workers and locals.

"The key to the solution lies in the social support and status that migrant workers gain," said Zhou at the 16th congress of the International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences which ended in Kunming yesterday.

Zhou Qiong, a 58-year-old Kunming resident who has decided to rent out one of her houses, said: "Migrant workers from outside have different living habits from us. And I am not clear about their financial situation, so it will be safer to rent it to a local."

Yang Xiaoliu, another participant in the survey, said: "Migrant workers and local citizens should make joint efforts to realize good relationships."

Researchers have gathered 3,500 questionnaires from respondents in six cities, including Shenyang, Hangzhou, Zhengzhou and Chengdu.


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