For Chinese migrants, village is no longer home

Thu Feb 5, 2009 10:05am EST
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Lucy Hornby

GETUOPU VILLAGE, China (Reuters) - Bundled in city clothes, Zhao Yongfeng slumped in front of a television set and tried to ignore the red-cheeked children in padded jackets who raced around his mother's store in a village in Shanxi province.

Zhao was among millions of migrant workers who made the annual trek home for the Lunar New Year festival.

With the holiday over, he was eager to return quickly to his job as a car salesman in the north central city of Shijiazhuang, even though a slowing economy meant car buyers were scarce.

"I got out of here when I was 20. And I'm almost 30 now, so that's a long time," Zhao said.

He gave a tight, icy smile and shook his head, when asked if he still felt at home in the village.

China's enormous countryside has traditionally acted like a sponge, releasing hundreds of millions of migrant workers who have sought their fortunes in cities when times were good, and reabsorbing them when jobs got scarce.

Now as China's economy slows, especially the export and construction sectors, officials are worried that protests and unrest could erupt if migrants can't find jobs when they return to the cities after the New Year break with their rural families.

For millions of Chinese migrant workers, staying permanently in a village like Getuopu, whose name translates roughly as "pile of clods," is a pretty depressing option.   Continued...