Posts Tagged ‘migrant workers’

Cleaning up the economy

June 21, 2009

China has announced that it expects upwards of 40 million people to be unemployed during 2009.  Already, something like 25 million migrant workers have lost their jobs leaving many families in a very difficult situation. Once upon a time, the majority of the poor Chinese would scratch out a living as farmers in rural areas. As this particular line of work quickly became a hard way to earn a very minimal wage, these farmers began to head into the cities and work in factories – thus, migrants.

All of the main cities are filled with them, and they are generally very easy to spot with their often darker skin and infinitely more weathered look. Often you will see them lining the walls of train stations, sitting there beside huge bags carrying everything they own.

In an effort to counter unemployment, the Chinese Government is moving to train many of these as housekeepers. There is a supposed shortfall of roughly 10 million housekeepers which has me wondering, just who are these people needing housekeepers so badly that there is a shortage? Either way, it is a good initiative by the government as around 60 percent of housekeepers are middle aged and come from the pool of migrant workers themselves.

Happy New Year!

January 26, 2009

Today is Chinese New Year, the most important of all Chinese holidays.  Beginning on the first day of the first lunar month, the festival continues until 15th, this day being known as Lantern Festival.  New Year and the Spring Festival are big business in China.  It is a time where families reunite – resulting in huge people migration across the country.  Migrant workers return home from the cities, and even overseas Chinese return to celebrate with their families.  For many in the country, it can be the only chance to see their family for the entire year, what with so many parents working hundreds of miles away with their children raised by grandparents. 

A typical scene outside Wuxi Train Station as thousands return home for New Year.

A typical scene outside Shanghai Train Station as thousands return home for New Year.

We have had many emails from our former students in the last couple of days, detailing how they will spend their holiday from school.  Most of them are excited at the thought of going home, and being given presents and money in red envelopes by their family.  As is the way with any Chinese festivity, families enjoy a celebratory dinner accompanied by either dumplings (jiaozi – which symbolise wealth due to their shape) or new year cake (niangao). 

Possibly the highlight though is the New Years Gala which is broadcast on CCTV – the mind can only boggle at the wonderment that must be felt watching such a spectacle. 

We were really looking forward to experiencing Chinese New Year, with our hope being to spend the time in Shanghai.  Our second day in China was Lantern Festival day, unfortunately we hadn’t yet found our feet enough to venture into the city for the festivities.  Sadly though, we will have to watch from a distance this year with the hope of being in China again in the future.

Workers decorating outside the Birds Nest

Workers decorating outside the Birds Nest

Young girls practicing a dance in earthquake affected Sichuan Province.

Young girls practicing a dance in earthquake affected Sichuan Province.

This year celebrates the Year of the Ox.  The Ox symbolises a year of prosperity through hardwork.  It is a powerful sign, showing leadership, dependability and patience.  However, this year is expected to be one of conservatism and traditional values, which probably reflects the current financial state of the world.


I have no doubt we’ll be able to hear the fireworks from here tonight.  And with that – Happy New Year everyone!

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