'Ant Tribe' looking for respect in year of the tiger

By Xiang Bin
0 CommentsPrint E-mail China.org.cn, February 26, 2010
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Dreaming of changing his life, 24-year-old Zhu Yifeng returned to Beijing after a week-long Spring Festival holiday. He clings to his belief that success is not out of reach.

"A bit more money and, above all, respect; this is what I want in the year of the tiger," Zhu said.


In big cities like Beijing and Shanghai, people like Zhu are called the "ant tribe." They have college educations but have been unable to find stable jobs and live in cramped accommodation, leading lives "similar to tiny, clever and laborious ants."

Zhu was born in a poor area of western China. After graduating from a not very prestigious university in Beijing, he found a sales job paying 1,800 yuan (265 US dollars) a month. But at Spring Festival he quit his job and went home.

He bought his elderly parents a washing machine to prove he was living the good life in Beijing even though he is, in fact, struggling to get by. Surveys suggest there are up to 1 million members of the "ant tribe" across China. They usually have temporary jobs in small companies and are paid around 2,000 yuan a month – half the average big-city salary. They have no big-firm fringe benefits and are not covered by social security.

More than half the "ant tribe" comes from poor, rural regions where a college education is seen as the route to a better life. To meet the high expectations of their families, they study hard in college only to find it difficult to find a good job because they lack all-important social connections.

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