City works to lure na­tives back for busi­ness, fam­ily

China Daily (Canada) - - TOP NEWS - By ZHU LIXIN in Fuyang, An­hui zhulixin@chi­

Look­ing ahead to Spring Fes­ti­val, Yu Bingjian and his fam­ily re­turned to their ru­ral home­town in Fuyang, An­hui prov­ince, on Feb 7.

For the past 15 years, Yu has been work­ing as an ex­ca­va­tor op­er­a­tor in Ningbo, a coastal city in Zhe­jiang prov­ince — first liv­ing alone but later joined by his wife, sons and daugh­ter.

In some of those years, Yu was un­able to re­turn to his na­tive Zhany­ing, a vil­lage in Lin­quan county, which has a pop­u­la­tion of 2.3 mil­lion.

It wasn’t that he didn’t want to go. Fuyang gov­ern­ment data show that more than 300,000 res­i­dents work in Ningbo, and there was lots of com­pe­ti­tion.

“It was too hard to buy a train or bus ticket,” Yu said.

As a re­sult, the Yu fam­ily had to spend three con­sec­u­tive Spring Fes­ti­vals in Ningbo.

Last year, how­ever, the gov­ern­ment of Fuyang ar­ranged for a train to pick up more than 1,300 mi­grant work­ers and take them from Ningbo to Fuyang free of charge.

As the point of ori­gin of a na­tional di­as­pora of more than 3.2 mil­lion peo­ple mi­grat­ing to other parts of the coun­try to work, Fuyang — whose to­tal pop­u­la­tion is more than 10 mil­lion — is hop­ing to woo its work­ers home so they can help de­velop the lo­cal econ­omy.

One of the ac­tions the city has been tak­ing is pick­ing up thou­sands of such mi­grant work­ers with buses and trains, and tak­ing them across the coun­try to their home­towns.

Yu’s el­dest son and daugh­ter-in-law had to stay in Ningbo for Spring Fes­ti­val last year be­cause their son was only 3 months old, and travel would be dif­fi­cult. Though the fes­ti­val places em­pha­sis on fam­ily re­unions, Yu thought re­turn­ing to his home­town was even more im­por­tant.

“Stay­ing in Ningbo for the fes­ti­val was just too lonely,” Yu said.

When Yu was home dur­ing the fes­ti­val last year, he made two plans: to find a girl­friend for his younger son, who is 21, and buy a car for the fam­ily.

The first plan failed, only to make him more de­ter­mined to ful­fill the sec­ond, hop­ing that it would then be eas­ier to at­tract a young women in the vil­lage or nearby.

“It’s al­most im­pos­si­ble for him to find a girl­friend in Ningbo,” Yu said. “So this year we re­turned home by driv­ing our own car, even though my el­dest son and his wife had to stay in Ningbo again be­cause their son came down with a se­ri­ous cold re­cently and needs to go to the hos­pi­tal ev­ery day,” Yu said.

Yu Ke, the son, said: “Though I also wanted to re­turn home for the cel­e­bra­tion of Spring Fes­ti­val, I take it eas­ier than my par­ents when I have to stay here.”

The Yu fam­ily didn’t need to take the free train this year, but thou­sands of other peo­ple were thank­ful for the con­ve­nience pro­vided by the lo­cal gov­ern­ment.

Of­fi­cials from Fuyang said the move was in­tended to ap­peal to mi­grant work­ers’s emo­tions about re­turn­ing home, not merely for the fes­ti­val but to think about stay­ing there for work op­por­tu­ni­ties and start­ing their own busi­nesses.

Yu Bingjian said he might be able to re­turn home while re­main­ing on call for the gov­ern­ment in the fu­ture, while his sons and daugh­ter — who is a mid­dle school stu­dent in Ningbo and be­lieves there are bet­ter ed­u­ca­tion op­por­tu­ni­ties in the city — pre­fer to re­main in Ningbo.

“Thanks to devel­op­ment, the num­ber of Fuyang mi­grant work­ers in Ningbo stopped in­creas­ing around 2016,” said Li Hu, head of the Fuyang Cham­ber of Com­merce in Ningbo.

Cham­ber mem­ber­ship in­cludes more than 80 Ningbo-based en­ter­prises founded by Fuyang na­tives, most of whom were mi­grant work­ers years ago.

“Older mi­grant work­ers ap­pre­ci­ate stronger ties with their home­town, even though many in the younger gen­er­a­tion pre­fer to live in the cities,” Li said.

Thanks to devel­op­ment, the num­ber of Fuyang mi­grant work­ers in Ningbo stopped in­creas­ing around 2016.”

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