Chinese migrants quit coastal cities to save money, be nearer home

Thu Feb 20, 2014 2:41am EST
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By Natalie Thomas

BEIJING (Reuters) - More migrant workers deserted China's coastal regions last year, as lower living costs and proximity to home trumped higher wages, the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security said.

Data published on Thursday found the number of migrants working in China's eastern coastal region decreased by 0.2 percent in 2013, compared with a 9.4 percent increase in central China.

"Lower costs of living and a closer proximity to home and family mean that the attractiveness of these regions will only increase," said Yang Zhiming, the ministry's vice head.

The move inland by workers mirrors the relocation among factories to western China to take advantage of lower costs. For instance, Foxconn Technology Group, the world's largest contract electronics maker, moved its main operations to inland provinces such as Henan and Shanxi.

Wages in the rest of the country are still roughly 10 percent lower than the eastern provinces bordering China's coast, which currently host more than 60 percent of the country's migrants.

China's cheap hubs for low-skill export manufacturing along the Southern Pearl River Delta and the area around Shanghai were one of the main drivers of the country's breakneck growth over the past three decades.

But in recent years, the country has sought to focus on higher-end manufacturing as its "demographic dividend", or the advantage that China enjoys with its vast reserves of young and low-cost labor, begins to run out.

Overall, China's rural work force rose by 2.4 percent last year to 269 million, slowing on the previous two years which saw 3.9 percent and 4.4 percent growth respectively.   Continued...