Migrant Workers in China’s Big Cities

Probably most people have a stereotype towards big cities in China such as Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen. They can easily think of fashion, luxury, decency….But it’s not always the case. There are another group of people–migrant workers, who come from small villages or remote rural areas without a college degree but try to earn a living in large cities. It’s not easy for them to achieve the goal. They’re manual workers and they may do the most humble job which the city people are reluctant to do. They have to work overtime to afford for their family. The wealth gap between the rich and the poor is widening….

The Young Couple



left-home kid
The left-at-home kid

Last weekend I met two high-school classmates. They fell in love in high school, dropped out of school and got married in spite of the family strong opposition. So they didn’t go to a college and, of course they didn’t get a degree. At that time, they’re so young and so impulsive. They thought they’ve found the true love and couldn’t wait any more to get involved in a marriage. Till now, four years passed, and they have two boys now. The two boys are very lovely but this couple has to work very hard in a factory’s assembly line and get relatively low salary because they cannot manage the intellectual work, only the manual work. They currently live a very hard life because they have to raise the two kids. But the children were left at home (rural home) because their parents have no time to look after them. As a result, the kids cannot stay with their parents, and most of them are cared by grandparents or other relatives. In fact, the kids feel very lonely.  

shabby house
The shabby entrance to their apartment

In the small rented house, I almost cannot find a place to sit. It’s very narrow, shabby and dark. They have so much pressure on their shoulders. During our talk, I can easily sense the regret from their expressions. They could have lead a better life because both of them were excellent students in school. They should have gone to a university and got decent jobs with higher salaries, enjoying romantic dates as the other young people do. But now they have to face the household chores and worry about the daily expense everyday. This is their choice and they must be responsible for what they’ve decided.  All in all, everybody has the right to choose his/her life but has no right to choose being born. It’s their responsibilities and the decision lies with whoever is on the spot.

A Strong Contrast

Road sleeper
The road sleeper

What I alluded to above is not a unique situation in China. Actually, in Shenzhen there are some people who are in a worse living condition than the couple I mentioned. Every morning on my way to the office, there are several people sleeping on the road and they’re regardless of the danger of being hit by cars or bicycles. They’re just too tired! They are not beggars, but the construction workers or scavengers who cannot afford renting a house. All of this makes an extreme contrast with this big city. Big cities in China are not dreaming places or paradise all the time. Also China is still a developing country and its people need more humane care rather than the simple growth of GDP. To be frank, many people don’t give a damn about the so called rapid growth of GDP, what they really care at present is a guarantee for the basic living. Maybe they can only wish their next generation would have a better life in the future.

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