Migrant Workers Propelled China’s Rise. Now Many See Few Options.

“My ideal country is one where the people live in peace and prosperity, where there is food safety, freedom of speech, justice, a media that can expose injustices, a five-day, eight-hour workweek for workers,” said Mr. Zhang, the unemployed welder. “If these can be achieved, I will support whoever is in power, regardless of their party or how long they govern.”

The other reality facing migrant workers is that returning to their villages to earn money farming is not an option, as Mr. Xi said it was. There is not enough land waiting for them. They are referred to as “surplus rural labor forces” in China’s official and academic discourse for a reason.

“Only people who couldn’t find jobs would do farming,” said Guan, a migrant worker in the northwestern province of Gansu, “because income from farming is too low.”

Mr. Guan, 30, worked as a real estate agent in Shenzhen for five years before moving back to his home village at the end of 2019. Now he operates excavator machines. He lives on construction sites in temporary houses made of sheet metal, works 10 hours a day and is paid only for days he worked, about $50 a day with no benefits.

He wants to make as much money as possible while he is young. He also knows, based on his many WeChat message groups for projects he has worked on, that the number of construction projects is dwindling, and that some workers are not getting paid. Retirement, he feels, may never come.

“To be honest, deep down I feel lost,” he said. “All I can say is that for the time being, I’ll save as much money as possible. As for what the future holds, it’s really hard to say. I might not even live to see that age.”

Source link

Leave a Comment