Posts tagged ‘chinese new year’


For returning migrant workers, a changed and desolate homeland|Society|

As the first wave of Chinese migrant workers return to live in their hometowns, they may find that life has changed dramatically from when they first left, a PhD student in Shanghai University revealed in his journal published in The Paper.

For returning migrant workers, a changed and desolate homeland

Rural areas tend to evoke empty villages where the working population has left, but the fact is that more and more middle-aged migrant workers are coming back home in recent years, said Wang Leiguang, a native of Luotian county of Hubei province who impressed readers with his “Journal of returning to hometown” during the Spring Festival.

Ever since China’s reform and opening-up in the late 1970s, waves of farmers left their land and worked in cities, where they could enjoy higher incomes but faced various disadvantages.

After working in cities for decades, they feel tired and no longer welcome in the city. Most of them have built new houses in their hometowns and have some savings. More importantly, they have to look after their grandchildren, as Wang elaborated in his article.

The year-on-year growth rate in the number of migrant workers has been declining since 2010, said a report released by the National Bureau of Statistics in late April. Since 2004, China has encountered a continuous labor shortage and many migrant workers aged above 50 have returned to their hometowns, as Wang has noticed in his hometown, Luotian.

However, returning home doesn’t mean a return to farming. Since most young laborers moved to the cities, the remote farmlands have become wastelands no one wants to reclaim. Meanwhile machines have replaced manual work in the remaining farms. Even so, many don’t really care about the harvest and some even give up their land.

City life has apparently estranged them from the farmland.

Meanwhile, the pace of urbanization in China during the past 25 years has seen the decline of many villages. As people have drifted away to urban areas, the countryside has become stripped of community and culture.

Unlike twenty years ago when villagers could enjoy various activities such as temple fairs, outdoor movies and opera performances, there are almost no cultural activities these days, as rural people left for cities to find better-paid jobs. When those migrant workers return, they find that villagers have less contact with each other, even between neighbors. Most of them stay at home watching TV.

Rural life is lonely and dull. Wang described the common sight of an old man or woman sitting in the sun at the gate every day, greeting acquaintances when they pass by, as if waiting for death to come.

Increasing social bonds may be a solution to fight the alienation in the countryside, Wang suggested. He found that villagers communicated more and felt happier during their efforts to build a road.

Zhou Jinming, an agricultural official with the Yulin government of Shaanxi province, suggested that the government should focus on supporting large villages by improving conditions, such as setting up libraries and clinics.

via For returning migrant workers, a changed and desolate homeland|Society|


Poverty in China: Just a little bit richer | The Economist

THE villagers of Dingjiayan subsist on corn, potatoes, sunflowers and the few vegetables they grow. They sell the surplus and buy meat and a few other necessities in the nearby county town of Tianzhen. Its mud-and-brick buildings, and its setting among dusty hills in the north-eastern corner of Shanxi province, offer little to the occasional visitor to distinguish it from countless other parts of China where hard work brings but a meagre living. Yet Tianzhen county, of which Dingjiayan is a part, is one of just 592 areas that the central government designates as “impoverished”.

China’s official threshold for rural poverty is an annual income of 2,300 yuan ($370) per person. But the criteria for classifying a village or county are complex and often revised. They include comparisons of poverty rates and average incomes with those of the province, adjustments for inflation, quotas on the number of villages that may count as poor and a ban on including villages that own collective enterprises, whatever their income level. Though dozens of places have been listed and delisted every few years since the 1990s, the total has remained curiously fixed—at 592.

An “impoverished” designation brings substantial subsidies. But Ding Tianyu, who has lived in Dingjiayan for all his 73 years, says he hardly notices. Most households earn about 10,000 yuan a year, he says, and get a subsidy of 80 yuan for each mu (614 square metres) of land they farm. “I have five mu,” Mr Ding says. “When there is enough rain I am fine, and when I get the subsidy I feel just a little bit richer.”

With bustling shops and a fair number of pricey cars on its roads, Tianzhen’s county town does not, by Chinese standards, feel impoverished. There is little disclosure about how subsidies are used, says a restaurant owner. “We are told a lot of it goes into the local credit union and that we can apply for loans there, but they only lend to people with good connections.”

In 2012, when the list was last updated, Xinshao county in Hunan in south-central China was added. Local officials used the county’s official website to trumpet this “exceptional good tidings” after two years of “arduous efforts” and “untold hardships”. A large roadside board added its “ardent congratulations”. After nationwide criticism, the officials accepted that their words had been badly chosen. But their cheer was understandable: the official designation was worth an extra 560m yuan for the county each year from the central government.

The episode caused many to question the value of the system and the perverse incentives it creates for local governments. A commentary last year in the Legal Daily claimed that many places were misusing the funds and had fudged their figures to qualify as impoverished. Officials from the State Council Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development, which manages the list, have acknowledged widespread abuses. In February it banned lavish new buildings and “image projects” in officially designated poor areas.

State television reported on two counties, one in Ningxia and one in Hubei, where local governments spent 100m yuan each on new headquarters. In March, during China’s annual full legislative session, the council’s poverty head, Liu Yongfu, raised a different question about the programme. He told the Southern Metropolis, a newspaper, that hundreds of counties would be taken off the list by 2020. “If a poor area as big as a county still exists, then can Chinese society still be called moderately prosperous?” he asked.

Attainment of a “moderately prosperous society” is a goal that previous Chinese leaders set and that Xi Jinping, the current president, has adopted as well. Much progress has been made since reforms began in earnest in the late 1970s. China claims to have lifted 620m people out of poverty since then. Others may quibble over that number—the World Bank puts it at 500m—but few question the premise that China deserves immense credit for alleviating so much poverty.

Much still remains, however. A little uphill from Dingjiayan sits a smaller village, Dingyuanyao. Its higher elevation means it gets less water, and a resident says most of its 90 residents will clear just 1,000 yuan a year after paying for seeds and fertiliser. Some own motorbikes and televisions, and they are grateful for the basic health insurance they receive. They laugh in unison when asked if they receive subsidies. The arrival of electricity 30 years ago was a vast improvement, they agree. But little has changed in their lives since then.