Help the country's migrant workers help themselves

By Zhu Yuan (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-01-10 09:58

You see them climbing up and down scaffoldings, coaxing office towers and shopping malls up from the earth. You see them eating simple meals outside makeshift dormitories near the construction sites. You see them cleaning the streets, repairing the pavement, watering flowers and lawns in parks, carrying furniture, collecting garbage and helping the middle class tend to their household chores.

They are China's migrant workers, people who have left their rural hometowns for jobs in the cities. More often than not, they are engaged in manual labor.

But beyond the fact that there are millions of them out there, few people know much about this key stratum of society the things they want, the services they need and the values they hold.

China Central Television (CCTV) and a polling service conducted the country's very first survey of migrant workers at the end of last year.

The survey's findings belie the humble appearance of many migrant workers: Money is not their only concern, though they would like to make more of it. And although most migrant workers are engaged in unskilled labor, many of them consider knowledge to be the most important factor in making a living.

Taken as a whole, migrant workers are generally highly motivated and actively trying to move up the social ladder.

It is estimated that there were 140 million migrant workers throughout the country at the end of 2005 and that that number is expected to grow by 3 million every year.

More than half of the workers surveyed said they considered money to be a basic part of existence, but they also said that although money can make their lives better, there are other things that are more important and valuable.


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