China's young migrants like cities, spend more: survey

Mon May 12, 2014 5:24am EDT
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BEIJING (Reuters) - China's young rural migrant workers are more eager to work in cities, and are spending more and saving less, an official survey showed on Monday, a trend that could boost Beijing's efforts to urbanize and re-balance the economy in the long term.

To help turn consumers into the main driver of the economy, China's leaders aim for 60 percent of the country's population of almost 1.4 billion to be living in cities by 2020.

Beijing has pledged to gradually free up the rigid residence registration, or hukou, system to allow millions of migrants to settle in cities and enjoy basic welfare services there to help unleash their spending power.

About 55 percent of young migrant workers born since 1980 worked in bigger cities - those at the prefecture-level or above - far higher than the 26 percent tally for older workers, the latest survey by the National Bureau of Statistics shows.

Young migrants also spent 19.3 percent more than their predecessors.

The survey showed that the proportion of young people working outside their home towns was 80.3 percent, higher than 61.8 percent for older migrants.

The number of rural migrant workers, including those who already lived in cities, rose 2.4 percent in 2013 from the previous year to 269 million, the survey showed. But that pace slowed from 3.9 percent in 2012.

A seemingly endless stream of rural workers migrating to cities in search of better jobs and lives has underpinned China's economic rise in the past three decades.

But the pool of cheap labor is steadily drying up as the population ages, pushing up wages.   Continued...

Migrant workers walk outside the South Railway Station in Urumqi, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region May 2, 2014.   REUTERS/Petar Kujundzic