Amnesty International has a new report out today on the difficulties faced by migrant workers in China. I don’t know if anybody’s going to be shocked by this. The problems caused by the massive movement of rural Chinese to work in urban areas have been clear for a while. This document does cover them exhaustively. The topics discussed include unpaid wages, denial of contracts, extreme work conditions, discrimination in schooling, housing and medical care due to the hukou or residence permit system.
Amnesty’s recommendations are hardly extreme: uphold the right to free education, reform the hukou system to end the discrimination it causes, remove migrants’ barriers to urban health care schemes, strengthen workers’ contract rights. Those things come with a price, but given that these workers are a large part of the reason China has such a massive trade surplus and a world-beating economy, it only seems fair to pay.