Migrant workers across the country are reacting in confusion and panic to new rules that will prevent them from cashing in on their pensions until they retire. On December 28, the State Council issued a set of guidelines that for the first time allowed workers to transfer pensions from province to province. However, like so many financial products, the devil was in the detail. The guidelines gave workers just three days - until January 1 - to cash in their personal contributions to pension funds, after which they will not be able to access the money until retirement. The government issued no advance warning of the changes and there was no public consultation. The language of the guidelines was criticised by an expert in social policy as being too complicated for migrant workers to understand. In Foshan, a manufacturing hub in the Pearl River Delta, about 2,000 workers staged a sit-down protest on a busy road outside their factory, complaining that the new rules would not allow them to access their money. The workers accused factory management and local officials of failing to inform them of the change, which meant they had missed the deadline to withdraw funds. More than 100 armed police scuffled with the workers, and 22 people were arrested, according to the Southern Metropolis News. The guidelines enabled workers to move their personal contributions and part of their employer's contribution. Under the previous rules, workers were able to cash in their pensions when they moved to a new area, while the employer's contribution was frozen. When the guideline was issued, the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security said the rules protected workers' rights and would end the queues of migrant workers waiting to cash in their pensions. However, nearly 20,000 migrant workers queued to get their cash at Shenzhen's social security service centre in Futian district after the guideline was issued. Similar scenes were reported in Guangzhou and cities in the Yangtze River Delta. 'Who knows when and where I will be able to access my pension? When I am 50? Or 60? I'd prefer to cash in the money now,' said a migrant worker from Shenzhen. Tang Jun , a scholar from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences who specialises in social policy, criticised the government for failing to treat migrant workers fairly. 'From the release on December 28 to when they took effect on January 1, authorities gave the public only three days to digest the new guidelines,' he said. 'There were no public hearings and detailed paraphrasing. The rules were blurred and difficult to understand for us scholars, let alone migrant workers. 'The rules try to stop employees from withdrawing their pensions.' Only about 10 per cent of the 230 million migrant workers nationwide are enrolled in a pension scheme, according to official data.