Op-Ed Contributors

Rising power of migrants

By Bai Qingfeng (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-07-07 07:54
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New generation seeks more respect, better living standards and desires to carve unique identity for itself in city life

Migrant workers make up for a significant portion of China's industrial workforce, and they are key to the nation's modernization drive. They grew in prominence after the reform and opening-up policies the nation undertook three decades back.

The new generation of migrant workers refers to those born during the 1980s and who engage in non-agricultural work in cities even though all of them over 16 years of age are registered as permanent residents of rural areas.

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Compared to their predecessors, the employment situation and living conditions of these young migrant workers have improved remarkably. They also hold different values, and think differently about work and life compared to their parents.

But, due to the prevalent rural-urban dual residency system, the younger generation still faces a similar plight, and some common social problems that once handicapped their parents. Yet, fortunately, their subsistence and development have aroused extensive concern.

These young migrant workers are playing a principal role in China's economic and social development, and they have emerged as a significant socio-economic group against the backdrop of accelerated social transformation.

Government data put the number of migrant workers at 230 million last year, including 150 million working outside their hometowns, with 61.6 percent of them aged between 16 and 30.

The new generation of migrant workers therefore accounts for nearly half of the total number of migrant workers in China. The average age of this generation is about 23, while the average age of those fleeing the countryside to find their first jobs in cities is even lower.

Most such workers started working outside of their hometowns just after completing middle school.

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