A leading think-tank has said that young migrant workers committed a third of China's crimes last year. This reflects growing discontent among the nation's underprivileged members of society.
China's urban-rural divide and the discrimination that comes with it are causing rising official concern amid fears it could trigger unrest. The issue is likely to be in focus when the annual parliament session begins next week.
According to the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), migrant workers born after 1980 -- a group consisting of nearly 100 million people -- committed a third of crimes in 2010.
In a report emailed to AFP on Friday, CASS linked the crime wave to discrimination these workers often encounter in cities, dismissing the commonly held view that it was due to poor education, a bad home environment in childhood or poverty.
It cited "exclusion, job and education difficulties, unfair economic and political treatment, inadequate social security and cultural clashes" as the main reasons behind the crime wave.
Hundreds of millions of migrant workers in China provide the cheap labour that has helped the world's second-largest economy achieve breakneck growth, and they have flooded cities amid an unprecedented wave of urbanisation.
Unlike their parents, young migrant workers -- the second generation -- are more aware of their rights, and are increasingly frustrated with the treatment they receive in cities where they are often considered second-class citizens.
Despite living in cities, migrant workers are still registered as rural residents. As such, they have little or no social security and are charged huge fees to send their children to public schools, forcing some to forgo education.
The CASS report said the crimes were typically committed by those under the age of 25, often in groups. They include sex offences and are often violent.