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Shanghai Plans Homes for Migrant Workers

The city's suburban Jiading District announced plans yesterday to build a residential area over the next two years to accommodate up to 30,000 migrant workers.

The district's Malu Town said it plans to invest 300 million yuan (US$36 million) in the project to better manage the area's migrant workers, most of whom work at Shanghai Hope City -- the town's key economic development zone.

"For years, migrant workers have been restricted in poor living conditions, causing various social problems," said Xu Xuerong, an official with the Malu township government.

He wouldn't say what the new residential complex will look like or how much rent the workers will be charged.

With Shanghai's economy advancing rapidly over the past decade, a growing number of migrant workers are moving to the city in search of work. While jobs are relatively plentiful, most of them are low-paying menial tasks making it all but impossible for most of the migrants to afford a proper apartment in the city.

The city is currently home to some 6,000 to 7,000 construction sites, which accommodate around 800,000 migrant construction workers. Many of them live in makeshift shelters, sometimes provided by their employers.

Wang Guofu, a Zhejiang Province native who works at a construction site on Weihai Road, said he shares a 15-square-meter room with seven to nine other workers.

"All of us, some 200 workers, share a big bathroom and a dinning room," said Wang, 32, who has been working in the city for more than two years.

As bad as that sounds, Wang said the situation has improved since he arrived in the city.

"I think the situation is better than two years ago when I didn't actually have a proper room to live in," said Wang. "At that time, we just slept shoulder to shoulder in a row and had little privacy."

(eastday.com September 10, 2003)

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