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A migrant worker's struggle for subsistence for 115 days
( 2003-11-12 21:25) (Xinhua)

A rural migrant worker - 26-year- old Peng Hongping of central China's Hubei Province - was followed by two Xinhua reporters for 115 days as he sought jobs in the city, providing a glimpse into the life of China's vast rural migrant workers.

During the 115 days, Peng was employed in temporary jobs for only 45 days with a net cash income of 415 yuan (50 US dollars). Quite often, he had to sleep on the street and didn't have enough to eat.

A shabby and hungry Peng was first discovered by the reporters in early July in a job market in Wuhan, capital of Hubei Province. At that time, Peng had only 30 cents left in his pocket and had been without food for two days after being sacked by a construction boss and paid 200 yuan (24 US dollars) when 925 yuan (111 US dollars) was due after wounding his hand while working.

Peng's mother, in her 60s, was almost blind with cataract and made a living by selecting garbage back in their hometown. His wife, after one year of marriage, abandoned him because of poverty.

"I fear neither hardship nor hard work, my only wish is to live a better-off life, but now, I'm ashamed of being like this," said Peng.

Later, Peng got a job mixing cement in a construction site but was fired for slowness after working one day without getting a cent.

In late August, lured by the bright promise of 1,000 yuan (120 US dollars) a month for a job in a marble plant in the Xinjiang Uygyur Autonomous Region in the northwest, Peng went there and managed for a month in a remote village, working 12 hours a day, but was paid merely 300 yuan (36 US dollars) at the end.

Peng finally returned by evading a train ticket since what he got was not enough to cover his home-bound journey which would cost 370 yuan (45 US dollars).

In October, Peng found a job washing woven plastic bags, which asked for five to six hours of work in the day and an extra eight to nine hours in the evening. For the four tons of plastic bags he washed during three days, Peng got merely 30 yuan (3.6 US dollars).

During the more than 100 days, Peng worked for altogether 11 bosses, none of whom signed working contracts in any form with him or ever kept their original promises with him.

Peng is now scratching for a living by carrying goods in downtown Wuhan with a shoulder pole borrowed from his brother. Even this is not easy because of the almost full labor force.

"I would not think of seeking a job in cities any more if I had any cultivation land back home," said Peng.

Lou Wei, a doctor studying rural labor transfer with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said that migrant workers like Peng, who are unable to feed and shelter themselves in cities, constitute a considerable part of China's entire floating labor population of 94 million.

A series of policies and measures have been framed recently, demanding the signing of labor contracts and forbidding skimping workers' salaries and other behaviors hurting the rights and interests of migrant workers.

Lou said that relevant government policies should be earnestly carried out and in the meantime, strict protection over arable land should be exercised and necessary social assistance systems be established in order to help the floating group.

The central government has also launched an ambitious plan to provide training to 60 millions of farmers over the next seven years to help with their employment. The ambitious target also includes extra classes for 200 million rural workers who have already had jobs in the cities.

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