Mon, February 09, 2009
Business > Economy > 2009 Lantern Festival

Migrant workers embrace upcoming Lantern Festival with job expectations

2009-02-08 15:34:57 GMT2009-02-08 23:34:57 (Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

BEIJING, Feb. 8 (Xinhua) -- Migrant workers may have mixed feelings about the upcoming Lantern Festival, which falls on Feb. 9 this year.

It is a day to officially mark the end of the Chinese Lunar New Year festival season and an occasion for family get-together, but for many migrant workers who have placed themselves in a city far away from their countryside home, the tough job markets keep on dampening both their joy and prospects.

Tens of thousands of migrant workers have left cities for their rural homes before the Spring Festival, partially because of the global economic turmoil and partially due to the homebound tradition.

And now, they are back in the metropolis once they had worked for, though some of their fellow villagers were not with them.

Here are some scenes and hot spots where migrant workers are now found just ahead of the festival.

Had people traveled by train during the 40-day Spring Festival travel rush, or Chunyun, they would find there were less migrant workers showing up in Guangzhou, capital of China's economic hub Guangdong Province.

Statistics from the Guangzhou Railway Group Corporation show that fewer people were returning to the city.

It says 4.8 million people arrived in Guangdong Province in the11 days after the Spring Festival, a two percent increase compared with the same period last year, while people leaving the province saw an increase of nearly 24 percent in the few days ahead of the festival when compared with the same period.

Li Liuchun, who has been assured of a job at the Yizhichun Garment Co. Ltd. said he used to see migrant workers bring several or even tens of fellow villagers to catch trains and travel southward to the coastal cities.

"I did not meet such people this year." he said.

A 33-strong migrant workers, who were from hinterland provinces of Jiangxi, Hunan, Henan, Sichuan, Shaanxi emerged in group in the Guangzhou train station, 32 of them said they came back because they were promised with jobs.

Some of their friends would not venture to go to the big citiesas enterprises began to cut jobs from last year, according to them.

Liu Chaoqiang, a native from Yiyang of central Hunan Province, said he expect more migrant workers to come southward to the coastal area after the Lantern Festival if economic situation improves.

And some migrant workers would rather stay near home to compete for fewer job opportunities than taking the risk of traveling faraway for nothing, he said.

On the swinging cardboard in front of his chest, migrant worker Zha Guangyou wrote the message to potential employers: he is an electric welder and needs a job.

Zha, a native from Chizhou city of Anhui Province, came to Hangzhou, capital of Zhejiang Province, to find a job as early as Jan. 30., but what was on offer in the labor market was a much lower wage for the same job he did last year.

Zha would not compromise and hence spent days wandering around.

"Last year, my monthly salary was 3,000 yuan (about 440 U.S. dollars), and now the employers would not even afford half of that price," he said.

Xiang Minghua, an official with Hangzhou labor market, said the number of job vacancies were cut by nearly one third compared with the same period last year.

In Xiamen of neighboring Fujian Province, a security staff said he had an easy time to maintain order in the labor market this year as fewer people were hunting for jobs.

In the past, people would crowd into the place where he stands and the security staff's work was exhausting.

Liu Zhongrong, director of employment management center of Xiamen City, said migrant workers were waiting for the right moment to come back.

"They are hesitant this year because of the economic uncertainties," he said.

In the Shunde Science and Technology Industrial Park of Guangdong, which is home to over 1,000 enterprises, only 30 to 40 percent of the companies had started running as of Sunday.

Xinhua reporter contacted 10 enterprises and found three were in operation. Only one of them said it planned to recruit employee.

To the joy of some workers, there were still a few companies decided to maintain their work force. They are eyeing long-term development and wants to make sure their production goes smoothly and in a stable manner.

The management of the Shanghai Nissei Display System Company Ltd. did not sack a single person of its 900-strong migrant worker force despite overseas orders have been dropped for three consecutive months.

Wang Genrong, director of the human resources department of the company, said "we don't want to fire people just because of the poor business results. We would arrange job shifts and offer more training for our empolyees."

Xu Zhenkun, a Fujian-based businessman who owns a shoe company that employed more than 1,000 people said he needs his people.

"Hopefully the economic situation will improve in the latter half of this year. Currently, no new order, no new job," Xu said.

Huang Shibing's worrying face is definitely inharmonious with the eve of a big festival.

Living in Xiangyang Village of Minhang District of Shanghai, the 42-year-old man says the gloomy job prospect constantly gets on his nerves.

"I go to the labor market everyday and hope to find a job with higher income than my current warehouse keeper salary. But they said I was too old." he groaned.

For Ni Xiaogang, who's been on a "vacation" since he traveled from Sichuan's hometown to Shanghai on Feb. 1, he shoulders paramount pressure.

"The monthly rent for the apartment is 180 yuan and I have to spend 20 yuan on food each day."

Though down and out, many migrant workers are not feeling panicked and still looking for hope.

Wang Shaoqi, who is now working for a food processing company and earns 2,000 yuan a month says he will stay on in spite of the job instability.

He hopes to settle in Shanghai through hard work and self-improvement. He also saves money to learn driving and computer skills on weekends.

"As long as I have skills, I have hope." he said.

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