As the first generation of rural migrant workers have begun to reach or approach retirement age, the lack of pensions or underpayment of pensions has been an increasing grievance, and a cause of strikes and labour disputes in China. The 2014 Yue Yuen shoe factory strike, which was one of the largest recent strikes in China and involved 40,000 workers, for example, was triggered by the underpayment of pension contributions by the company. Workers have also increasingly sought legal redress for social insurance problems. In 2014, 64% of labour disputes in Guangzhou’s intermediate level court involved social security matters.
As part of research into the lives of first generation and long-term migrant workers, Globalization Monitor surveyed 651 workers about social insurance and plans for retirement. The migrant workers were living and working in 5 cities, including Dongguan and Huizhou in Guangdong province (27%), Fuzhou in Fujian province (25%), Yangzhou in Jiangsu province (25%) and Chongqing municipality (23%). The majority of the workers were factory workers, working in car and motorbike manufacturing, electronics, shoes, garments and glasses factories; while some worked in logistics, the service sector or as construction workers.
The survey looked at social insurance coverage, workers’ views of the social insurance arrangement and the challenges they had faced as well as preparations and plans for after they had retired.