Migrant workers in China2008-02-27
– on building the new China ”Let some people get rich first”, Deng Xiaoping stated when he introduced the market reforms in China almost thirty years ago. And some people did get rich, indeed – particularly some of the ones living in the urban centres of Eastern China. The ones who have not yet gotten rich – the majority of the 900 million people living in the countryside – now travel to the cities to try and get their little part of the riches. It is the migrant workers, the endless mass of mobile and cheap labour from the countryside, who build up the new China. They build Shanghai’s skyscrapers and metro stations, they renovate apartments for rich city people, they tear down old houses and transport away the recyclable material on their rusty three-wheeled bicycle carts. But due to their hukou, the birth-specific ID-cards that every Chinese person has, they will never enjoy the benefits of what they are now building. They rarely have the opportunity to get anything but random jobs in the cities and they lack the same opportunities for education and health care as their urban peers.