Return of jobless migrants strains China

Nationwide, the Chinese government estimates that the number of jobless migrants looking for work may reach 26 million. Some of them have returned home to places that largely missed out on China's economic boom of the past two decades, forcing officials in Beijing to find a way to reincorporate them into the labour force – or face possibly dramatic consequences, says USA Today.

So concern has shifted to China's countryside, where 56 per cent of the country's 1.3 billion people reside:

  • The average income for Chinese farmers is about $690 a year – less than a third of what is paid in urban areas.

  • The shortage of well-paying jobs explains why as many as half of the labourers in Bamboo Pole, population 50,000, decided to seek factory jobs – and why their return is so problematic now.

  • Many of the jobless migrant workers will stay in cities to try their luck, possibly at smaller salaries.
    But for those who go home and stay, rural life will come as a shock. Now that they have lived in the big city, their expectations are a lot higher. So local governments are trying to help:

  • Sichuan province started offering $11 million in training vouchers, at $73 a person, to teach workers new skills.

  • An estimated 15 job training centres for returning migrants have been set-up in Jintang, and there are already over 2,000 workers receiving the courses.

  • There are also programmes to assist farmers and migrant workers to set up businesses at home.

    China's growing unemployment could strain U.S. relations over trade matters as the United States seeks China's help to deal with North Korea's nuclear programme, says USA Today. If unrest grows, China could become more belligerent internationally.

    Source: Calum MacLeod, Return of jobless migrants strains China, USA Today, February 17, 2009.

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    FMF Policy Bulletin/ 24 February 2009
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