Migrant Workers Question the Government's Claims of High Wage Arrears Settlements

May 27, 2005

Official claims that the government has recovered virtually all amounts owed to migrant workers for the year 2003 and before were challenged by migrant workers recounting their personal circumstances in a Beijing News interview published May 26. Some government reports boast very high rates of recovery of wage arrears – for example, the Chinese government announced in an April 21 Xinhua article that it had retrieved 99 percent of the total officially-known migrant worker arrears before 2003. But the construction workers interviewed in the Beijing News article said that the high settlement rate is hard to believe. Most workers, they said, only received part of their back pay. One worker had to beg for his past wages, which were as much as four months overdue. Another worker said that workers encounter three types of government attitudes when trying to collect back pay. Local governments either (1) don’t want to know anything about the circumstances; (2) cannot manage the problem; or (3) intentionally wish to conceal the problem.