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Advancing age leaves migrants' careers up in the air

By YANG ZEKUN | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2021-02-22 09:20
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In addition to his heavy workload, living in Beijing and supporting a family exert huge pressure on external wall cleaner Shang Qianjin.

The 43-year-old cannot afford a home in the urban area of his hometown-Zhumadian, Henan province-and he thinks his house in the countryside is good enough.

However, whenever he learns that friends have bought homes downtown and their children can study there, Shang is sad because he thinks he is failing to give his children such opportunities.

He earns about 7,000 yuan ($1,080) a month in Beijing, and he sends 5,000 yuan of that back home.

He said houses cost about 6,000 yuan per square meter in Zhumadian so he will need to work for about five years to save the down payment.

"It is interesting that I have cleaned many buildings but don't own one. Property prices are still rising in my hometown and if I can't afford it now, I will not be able to afford it in the future," he said.

Ma Jianzhong, 44, a wall cleaner from Baicheng, Jilin province, owns a home in Gu'an, Hebei province. He makes monthly mortgage payments of more than 2,000 yuan.

Together, he and his wife earn 12,000 yuan a month. After paying the rent for their room in Daxing district and daily expenses, they send 6,000 yuan to Ma's parents, who take care of their 16-year-old daughter in Baicheng.

They often feel stressed when they consider their family's circumstances. They didn't work for several months last year because large gatherings were prohibited to prevent the spread of COVID-19, meaning they earned about 30,000 yuan less than in 2019.

"I once thought about finding a new job, but I was afraid that I would not be able to earn enough money, which might have led to a tough situation for my family. I must support my daughter until she completes her studies, but then I will consider making some changes," he said.

Ma said his job requires great physical strength and flexibility, which makes it unsuitable for people age 50 and older. His workmates are mainly ages 38 to 48, and they all come from relatively poor parts of the country.

Few young people are willing to sign up for external wall cleaning work because it is tiring and risky, and there is no chance of promotion, Ma said.

"The job is hard, so people never want their children to do it. I will try my best while I am still able, so I can offer my daughter good opportunities and she can have a better life than me," he added.

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