Monday, May 14, 2007

Life Away from Home

I'm living away from home, but am fortunate to have decent accommodation and the means to make my living space and lifestyle as comfortable as I can or want.

But there are millions of migrant workers who come to major cities like Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou to make a better life for themselves and their families.

According to the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, in 2005 there were some 140 million people who left their hometowns. They mostly come from inland provinces heading east to mostly coastal cities where the money is.

Because they don't have much education, many work in factories, young men are security guards who do nothing except stand around all day, young women work in fast food restaurants or do massages or manicures.

Many men are supplying labour in the construction sector. Lots of buildings, from office towers to apartment buildings are sprouting up like weeds all over Beijing and it's thanks to these migrant workers who are putting them together.

I can't even imagine what their salaries are. My colleague told me the other day that the young security guards who stand in front of our office all day make 1,000 RMB (US$130) a month.

But back to the construction workers. At a construction site near my apartment, there's a makeshift white and blue multi-level building complete with doors, windows and washrooms. That's where the migrant workers live. No excuse for being late for work! There's probably a few sharing a room as there aren't many of these portable buildings on the site. They do all their cooking and bathing there too.

So with all that preamble, I thought this picture shows the contrast between the migrant workers and the apartments they build.

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