China: Protecting and Promoting the Rights of China's Vulnerable Migrants


China’s migrant workforce of 150 million represents the largest movement of people in modern history. But maximising the benefits of internal migration while mitigating its adverse effects is a difficult balancing act. Most migrants leave rural communities at a young age with few skills and can only obtain work that is, at best, manual and menial – and at worst, severely exploitative.

China's migrants live in the margins of society, where services are not accessible and the law is not fully enforced. This Joint Programme piloted strategies to reach young people most at risk from social exclusion and labour exploitation. These initiatives aimed at reducing their vulnerability by increasing access to social services, better implementing existing legislation and improving educational, vocational and life-skills training opportunities. To deliver these objectives, the programme also promoted capacity building, cooperation and knowledge sharing between stakeholders in government and civil society.

Its main achievements were:

  • The development of an innovative internet portal housing important studies on a range of migration issues and offering key information for migrants on how to protect their rights and where to access services, training and support. 
  • Two pilot sites (Changsha and Hangzhou) elaborated social inclusion policies for migrants aimed at increasing their access to social services. Young migrants, social workers and civil society organizations were consulted to identify gaps in existing policy frameworks and awareness was built on the need for more participatory governance mechanisms, health services and gender-sensitive policies and programmes.  
  • A health promotion model was designed and tested to encourage the use of health services by young people, and peer educators and volunteers were trained to talk to migrant workers about health issues in their living and working quarters. A high-level policy advocacy forum was convened to contribute to national reforms for promoting migrants’ health.
  • Workers’ and employers’ organizations were engaged in developing a code of conduct for companies hiring domestic workers as part of efforts to ensure compliance with the new Labour Contract Law. The programme helped develop a standardized contract for domestic workers and employers. An Ethics Toolkit for hiring domestic workers and a Practical Handbook were subsequently developed and training courses were organized for employer’s organizations and domestic workers.  
  • The programme worked with the National Working Committee on Children and Women to pilot a registration system for the children of migrants, a new mechanism which enables local governments in receiving cities to make funding allocations for basic education and health services. 
Click for more detailed results from the Joint Programmes in China.

The Joint Programme in action


Programme Dates 11 Feb 2009 - 11 Feb 2012
Net funded amount $6,510,497
Participating UN agencies ILO, UNDP, UNESCO, UNFPA, UNICEF, UN Women, WHO, UNV, UNIDO
National partners Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security; Ministry of Health, Ministry of Civil Affairs, National Development and Reform Commission, National Population & Family Planning Commission, National Working Committee for Children and Women, State Council Inter-Ministerial Committee on Migrant Workers
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