Delegates from the Communist Youth League and China Youth Coalition have appealed for fair treatment and better education for migrant workers to enhance their job prospects. On the first day of group discussions, the 38 delegates criticised the treatment of migrant workers and aired their ideas on bridging the rural-urban divide. The Youth Leaguers, most of whom are well educated, are known for their progressive thinking. Several of the rising stars in the current government leadership - including Communist Party boss Hu Jintao - cut their political teeth in the Communist Youth League, which has become a powerful force in forging national consensus and setting the political and social agenda. According to last year's census, 480 million Chinese are aged between 14 and 35. Bai Xiangqun, a Communist Youth League delegate from Inner Mongolia, said migrant workers must not be consigned to the status of second-class citizens. 'City people disdain migrant workers as filthy and uncouth,' he said. 'They don't want to admit that their comfort depends on the toil of these country brethren.' This year workers staged public protests in several major cities. Some threatened to jump off buildings before Lunar New Year to bring attention to their plight. Ni Ping, a producer for Central Chinese Television, said on one visit to the countryside, he had heard a young girl ask her mother: 'Why do we put aside our best crop to feed the city people, while dad never eats well when he works there?' Ms Ni said some people in Qingdao city, Shandong province even wanted to segregate public buses. Shocking proposals like these just showed how callous city people had become, she said. Mr Bai added that with 70 per cent of migrant workers under the age of 35, equitable treatment was a moral obligation. He has collected six signatures to second his draft resolution on protecting the rights of migrant workers. Wang Ching, a property developer who employs hundreds of migrant workers for construction, said the quality of the workforce was very worrying. Unless the government could help upgrade the training and skills of the job-seeking youth from the countryside, the divide between the city and the countryside would be unbridgeable. 'There is a surplus of white-collar workers, but not enough skilled blue-collar workers,' he said. When his firm, Beijing Rong Feng Development, wanted to hire an office worker, 200 applicants turned up. But a vacancy for a technician drew a handful of barely-qualified candidates. He urged the government to grant tax breaks and other incentives to encourage private entrepreneurs to develop vocational education for workers. A delegate from Shanghai agreed, noting that many Chinese engineers could produce world-class designs, but projects often faltered as a result of poor execution.