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Young Migrant Workers Shun Hard Labor in Cities
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China's migrant workers born in the late 1970s and 1980s are refusing to follow in their parents' footsteps and do tough and dirty work in China's booming cities, according to a report about migrant workers.

Their choices have led to a lack of migrant workers in three of China's major manufacturing bases: the Pearl River Delta, the Yangtze River Economic Zone and the Bohai Bay Economic Circle in north China, said a report carried on a migrant worker website (

The report -- based on a survey of over 5,000 migrant workers in 20 cities in the regions-- said that 71 percent of migrant workers under the age of 30 preferred service work in restaurants and hotels or skilled work with decent pay.

The report compiled figures from city labor departments to indicate that in the first quarter of the year, only 180,000 migrant workers filled 520,000 urgent job vacancies in the cities.

The website was set up in August 2005 by a consulting company with support from labor authorities in east China's Zhejiang Province. Besides providing employment and work-skill training information to migrant workers, it carries out market surveys and analyses for government bodies.

The report said that new attitudes among young rural laborers help explain the current shortage of migrant workers in the manufacturing bases in China's coastal regions.

Zhang Huan, a 16 year-old junior high school graduate from Fushui Village in central China's Hubei Province, told the Xinhua reporter that he had learnt from the experiences of many of his fellow villagers who were disappointed by exhausting, low-paid jobs in cities.

He did not go to the city to try his luck directly after finishing his nine-year compulsory education, like young job-seekers from the countryside in the past. Instead, he opted to attend a short-term training course on drilling machine skills in his hometown before going to cities.

The report said that young migrant workers have higher expectations about their city life than the older generations. As China upgrades its industries, the number of skilled workers needed will rise from current 80 million to 110 million in the next five years. So young migrant workers are keen to improve their work skills.

Rural laborers began to flood into cities in the 1980s looking for simple manual jobs. There are now about 140 million farmer-turned migrant workers in Chinese cities, half the workforce in the country's construction, mining and textile industries and in unpopular service work such as cleaning and garbage collection.

The report shows that as the older generation of China's migrant workers enter their 40s and 50s, they are more likely to face unemployment in cities.

Xin Dayao, a 40-year-old migrant worker from Hubei has spent the last eight years doing simple manual work on construction sites in Wuhan, the provincial capital of Hubei Province.

"I earned 700 yuan (US$87.5) a month. With no education and no skills, just muscles, I felt that people looked down on me," he said.

The humiliation gave him the courage to change his fate by learning. Even though he was in his 40s, he devoted his spare time for several months to studying like a freshman in order to get a national plasterer's certificate.

"As I grow older, skills and knowledge are the only way to preserve my life in the city," said Xin. With the professional work skill certificate, he can expect to earn an extra 500 yuan or 600 yuan (US$62.5-70) per month.

(Xinhua News Agency October 21, 2006)


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