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60% of migrants return to cities after Spring Festival
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An NGO survey shows that despite the financial crisis, nearly 60 percent of migrant workers are set to return to cities to look for work after Spring Festival, Beijing News has reported.

Mr Li Tao, founder of Cultural Communication Center for Facilitators, the NGO that carried out the survey, said, "The global financial crisis has hit hard. Economists look at the figures, but what about people, the migrant workers who have been most severely affected by the crisis?"

The January survey showed 59.3 percent of migrant workers intend to return to cities to find work. But most are no longer traveling to the east coast but are heading for cities in the west and north.

"We plan to submit the survey to the State Council Office on Poverty Alleviation and Development to assist them in their work." Mr Li said.

Most heading back to cities

In addition to the 59.3 percent of workers who said they intended to return to cities to find jobs, 13.2 percent said they would stay home "for now" and watch how the situation develops; only 7 percent said they were looking for work in their hometown.

Liu Gang, a migrant worker from a village in Jiangsu Province, was temporarily laid off in December 2008, and realized that it was tantamount to dismissal. But he did not return home. "I can still earn money here. It is better than back home. There’s nothing in my hometown." Liu said.

Investigators say the lure of cash keeps migrants in the cities. In rural areas, it is hard for people to earn money, so most will do almost anything to avoid going back.

Furthermore "Second generation migrant workers know nothing about farming and would be unable to adjust to life back home," said Li Tao.

On February 9, asked whether migrant workers should stay in cities, Zhang Chewei, vice director of the Institute of Population and Labor Economics, at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said, "The Government should offer practical guidance. I estimate that this global financial crisis will affect the economy for six months. A new round of job opportunities will appear soon."

Jobseekers shun coastal cities and head west and north

Almost 30% of migrant workers interviewed said that they were planning to head west or north, because it is no longer possible to find jobs in the Pearl River Delta.

Migrant workers in eastern coastal areas, such as the Pearl River Delta and the Yangtze River Delta, were hardest hit by the crisis. Workers in western and northern cities have so far not felt the effects of the downturn.

Li Tao said, "The crisis has caused a shift in the employment pattern of migrant workers. If they can’t find jobs in developed cities, they will set out for less developed cities in west and north China."

Zhang Chewei said that as development spreads, small and medium-sized cities are offering increasing employment opportunities to migrant workers.

Migrant workers find it tough to start out in business

The survey showed only 6.8 percent of workers had thought about starting businesses back home, mainly because of what they see as lack of access to small loans, despite government measures to boost aid to migrant worker enterprises.

Investigators say it is unrealistic to expect migrant workers to start their own business in the present circumstances. Li Tao said, "With the financial crisis, the risks facing startups are greater than usual."

Social stability not at risk

Media and academics have been speculating that unemployment among migrant workers will lead to social unrest in urban areas.

But the survey shows that migrant workers usually leave for other cities or return home within a month of losing their jobs. Otherwise they risk homelessness.

Li Tao added, "The survey shows, that most migrant workers have middle and high school education and are very different from the stereotype of an uneducated floating population."

(China.org.cn by Ma Yujia, February 17, 2009)

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