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Golden job for blue-collar workers
( chinadaily.com.cn )
Updated: 2011-08-22

As the saying goes, craftsmanship is hard to master at the age of 30. However, 42-year-old Zhang, a vegetable grower in Jixian village of Tangchi town, Liaoning province's Dandong city, defied that old saying by leaving his old job and picking up a new skill.

Zhang was vegetable farmer before becoming a bricklayer. He had heard bricklayers earned more.

Yuan Zheng, Zhang's brother-in-law, is also a bricklayer who, over recent years, has seen his income grow. Yuan was gradually able to afford more, moving from a small bungalow into a big apartment and buying a car. As a bricklayer, Yuan Zheng earns 300 yuan ($46.89) a day.

"Business began to get better three years ago. Before that, bricklayers could barely make ends meet," Yuan says.

"Take tiling for an instance, it took 15 yuan ($2.34) for each square meter three years ago. But now, one-square-meter of tiling costs more than 30 yuan ($4.69)," he added.

"I did not imagine that this trade could be in such great demand." The construction team Yuan works for has been paying their staff weekly instead of monthly in order to sustain a level workforce.

Yuan says bricklayers are highly mobile. If they are not paid on time, they can easily find jobs elsewhere. Therefore, it is within companies' incentive to keep skilled laborers, especially when project deadlines near.

On the morning of August 16, bricklayer Song was busy plastering walls at a building site near the Shanshui Longcheng community. He told a reporter that it is hard to employ a bricklayer for less than 200 yuan ($31.26) a day. Skilled bricklayers can earn more than 10,000 yuan ($1,563) a month. Bricklayers working at construction sites are paid at least 400 yuan ($62.52) a day. Going by these daily rates, it wasn't before long that Song could afford a Volkswagen Jetta to shuttle more conveniently between home and his work site.

Industry insiders say bricklayers will experience a busy period between now and November. Many skilled bricklayers are booked until the end of the year.

Many house owners say that they never expected to wait so long to hire skilled bricklayers. These days they have to pay extra money to get the job done quicker.

"Most people withstand the difficulty of the work. It's not easy tiling. We are exposed to all kinds of weather. We arrive at the construction site at six in the morning and return home late at night," said Yuan.

Bricklayers earn money the hard way.

Nowadays, many rural families only have one son. Parents often want to work harder than allow their sons to become slaves to bricklaying.

Society pays too much attention on people that come from the "right" educational background and never enough attention on those with labor skills, thus there is now a shortage of traditional craftsmen.

Young people these days don't see traditional trades, such as mechanic, welder, bricklayer, steel benders and carpenters as ideal professions.

"There are barely any training programs for bricklayers now. They are cultivated over many years of practice," said Song. The average age of bricklayers in the construction team where Song works is 50; he is concerned that there aren't enough successors for the future.

Edited by Chen Zhilin and Tania Lee

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