Saturday, February 6, 2010

Fact of the Day: Migrant Spending

The Chinese government is keen to boost domestic consumption. The latest effort is to push for more spending in the rural areas, opening up micro-credit loans for farmers and subsidies for them to buy vehicles and big-ticket household items like washing machines.

While there are a few farmers who have struck it rich, buying up tractors to help them make their food production more efficient, there are still many more especially in the central and western regions who are still literally dirt poor.

That's why many give up their agricultural livelihoods and turn to becoming migrant workers.

However, they aren't necessarily big spenders, as they find things expensive in the city, and want to save as much as possible to bring back to their families.

According to the January 2009 journal Chinese Social Science (Zhongguo Shehui Kexue), there was a study of 56,000 households in 2006.

It found that a migrant worker living in a one-person household spent 7,872RMB ($1,152) that year, while an urban person with an average salary only spent slightly more at 7,905.41RMB ($1,157).

Those in the lowest income bracket only had an annual expenditure of 2,953RMB ($432).

As an expatriate living in Beijing, I cannot even begin to fathom how they manage to spend so little every year; obviously food quality is not a priority and neither is clothing.

It makes you realize not only how hard these people work, but how much they want to save in order for their families and their next generation to have better lives.

Aren't these numbers enough to convince President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao that the majority of the population -- farmers and migrant workers -- need a better social safety net?

If they were given better access to education, health care and pensions then maybe they wouldn't hold on so tightly to their money. But most of all they would feel that the government cared about them and wanted to reward them for their invaluable contribution to the country.


ks said...

it is a shame that the rich chinese come here to snap up houses with suitcases of cash while so many these migrant workers live such a lowly life. the ever widening gap between rich and poor is causing a lot of discontent and social unrest. may be this is why china is so sensitive to reports on the real life in the country.

ks said...
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