For many Chinese migrants, the lure of the city is fading

Mon May 30, 2016 4:01am EDT
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By Brenda Goh and Clare Jim

WENZHOU, China/HONG KONG (Reuters) - After two decades trying to make a life in China's entrepreneurial city of Wenzhou, Ji Shouquan and his brother Shoufang are ready to head home.

They say they have no hope of stepping onto the city's housing ladder and it is getting more difficult to earn a decent wage.

China is relying on millions of internal migrants taking up jobs in cities to boost the urban population and consumption. It hopes this will fuel more sustainable long-term economic growth and reduce the country's reliance on big industry and exports that powered the country's rise in the last three decades.

But migration is slowing down and workers are more reluctant to travel across the country to find jobs, trends that could undermine these efforts.

"It's really tough to make money," said Shouquan, who earns about 5,000 yuan ($767) a month as a sound technician in a karaoke lounge. "Of the six or seven friends who used to work at the KTV, only two of us are still holding on. Most have gone home."

His taxi-driver brother, Shoufang, said that's what they'll probably end up doing too.

Both have scrimped enough to buy property in their home town of Fuyang in the largely agricultural province of Anhui in eastern China, where home prices are about a fifth of the cost of Wenzhou, which is in the neighboring province of Zhejiang.

"It's unrealistic for migrant workers like us to buy in Wenzhou, unless you've got your own business," Shoufang said.   Continued...

Residential buildings are seen in Wenzhou, Zhejiang Province, China, May 12, 2016. REUTERS/Brenda Goh