Young migrant workers hope to settle in cities

Updated: 2012-01-31 10:45


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QINGDAO - Different from their parents, who after working in cities would return home to rural China with their savings, the new generation of migrant workers often prefer to settle down in the bustling hubs where they work.

Migrant worker Zhao Bin from Pingyin county in east China's Shandong Province returned to Qingdao, a coastal city where he and his wife had worked for nine years, shortly after the Spring Festival holiday, or China's Lunar New Year, that ended on January 28.

"I'm planning to settle down in this city, so I come back to work on time so that I can make more money and hopefully buy a house here in the future," the 30-year-old farmer-turned-worker said.

Zhao and his wife both work as tailors in a garment factory, Jifa Group, where they can earn about 7,000 yuan ($1,100) per month.

Their company also offers them a free room. And unlike their parents' generation, they can afford to bring their child to the city for education.

"We used to quit our job at the year end and find a new one after Spring Festival. But now we feel much like those long-term employees in the company," Zhao said.

China's shrinking labor force, partly as a result of the one-child policy, has forced companies to raise salaries and offer better working conditions for migrant workers.

It is estimated that migrant workers born after 1980 account for 58.4 percent of the country's total of 145 million.

Among the young migrant workers, only 4 percent plan to return to their hometowns and work as farmers, according to a survey released by the Chinese Family Culture Research Institute (CFCRI) in December.

However, making their way in the large cities is not easy for these new comers. Education and health care are not cheap and apartment prices are absurdly expensive compared to the average wage in the country's metropolitan areas.

"Unlike the rural life that is simple and self-sufficient, we face much greater pressure in cities because we have to pay our housing and all daily necessities," said Wu Zhongliang, a migrant worker from northwestern Gansu Province who has worked in the southern city of Shenzhen in Guangdong Province for 13 years.

Wu's five-year-old son goes to a kindergarten in the city and he has to pay about 5,000 yuan each semester. The sum is the largest expense for the family.

"It is worthwhile because education in our rural hometown is not as good as here in Shenzhen," Wu said.

Apart from the better educational environment for their children, to live in cities also means more training opportunities for migrant workers.

Among the 2,500 young migrant workers surveyed by the CFCRI, 38.6 percent said they hoped to acquire some technical know-how while 19.6 percent expressed their willingness to become technical workers.

Zhu Guangtian and his two brothers, all from Shandong's rural county of Yinan, have worked for Qingdao Port Group for 12 years. All of them have bought their own houses and settled down in the coastal city.

"We receive technical training almost every day in our work, and what we have learned has enabled us to live a better-off life today," Zhu said.

"Migrant workers trying to settle down in the cities should be given more consideration as they are the main force of Chinese urbanization," said Li Wei, a researcher at the Qingdao Academy of Social Sciences.

China's urban population has outnumbered rural residents by the end of 2011, with 690.79 million or 51.27 percent of the total population living in cities, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.

Under this backdrop, the Chinese government should also pay more attention to the coordinated development of urban and rural regions as agriculture is facing a looming crisis as a result of the drain of migrant workers, leaving the elderly and the women back at the rural villages, Li said.