Laurier Faculty Member attends Workshop in China on Mirgrant Worker Rights
Peter Donahue, Director Laurier Interantional
Dr. Eli Teram, Professor in the Lyle S. Hallman Faculty of Social Work at Wilfrid Laurier University attend a two day workshop entitled “Addressing the Challenges Facing Migrant Workers in China”. The event took place on April 21 and 22, 2008 and was sponsored by the Ministry of Commerce with the Municipality of Chongqing, China; Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA); and the Chongqing Commission of Foreign Trade and Economic Cooperation. The workshop focused on the impacts of accelerated urbanization is having on China today; the 120-150 million farmers who have flowed into the urban centres and the two out of three industrial workers who are migrant workers.
According to Dr. Teram, “there was a consensus at the workshop that one of China's greatest challenges is the integration of migrant workers into civil society, protecting their rights, and responding to their needs. Addressing this challenge will require significant social policy reforms and investment in the development of social services and programs".
In light of the increasing challenges facing migrant workers in China, the hosting agencies brought together experts to share lessons and experiences across a wide range of policy issues. Topics discussed at the workshop included: Addressing the Policy Challenges Facing Migrant Workers in China; Social Security Reforms for Migrant Workers; Occupational Health and Safety; Education for Migrant Workers; Access to Justice for Migrant Workers Experiences and Lessons Learned; Skills Development for Migrant Workers; Rural Land Use and Urban Housing for Migrants; New Labour Laws; and The Prevention of Trafficking and Forced Labour.
Participants included senior Chinese and International experts specializing in the areas of urbanization, social security reform, labour markets, legal aid, and rights protection for migrants, and occupational health and safety. In attendance was Canada’s Ambassador to the People’s Republic of China, Robert Wright and Canada’s Senior Consul in Chongqing Shawn Steil. Keynote addresses were delivered by Constance Thomas, International Labour Organization’s Country Director for China; Irene Zhou, International Labour Affairs, Human Resources and Social Development Canada; Tim Feng, Federation of Canadian Municipalities; and Xiaoqing Yu, Sector Coordinator for Human Development, and Lead Social Protection Specialist, with the The World Bank. Presentations by Chinese participants included representatives from the Municipality of Chongqing, the Bureau of Labour and Social Security Chongqing; the Self-Empowerment Service Center for Disabled Persons; the State Administration for Safety; Legal Aid provider for Migrants; China Lawyers Association; and the Guangdong Women’s Federation. Presentations from the Canadian and Chinese academic communities were made by faculty from Queen’s University, York University , the Capital University of Economics and Business, East China University of Politics and Law; Chongqing School of Adminstration; the Institute for Social Development and Public Policy at Beijing Normal University; and from the Department of Sociology at Chongqing University.
The 2 day workshop established a platform to share experience and results as well as improved co-ordination among actors involved in supporting migrant workers. A summary of conclusions from the workshop was presented to the State’s Council’s Migrant Workers Office.
Chongqing is the largest city in the world, with a population of 37 million and a geographical area the size of Austria. It is China’s fourth and newest autonomist city and the Centre of the economic and social planning for Southwest China. Laurier established an Office in Chongqing in October 2007 to strengthen academic cooperation with the universities, scholars and the scientific/educational institutions of the region.