FAIL­ING FARM­ERS FLOCK TO THE FAC­TORY FLOOR

A gov­ern­ment-led ini­tia­tive has helped im­pov­er­ished ru­ral work­ers find suit­able jobs in cities. Zhang Zhihao re­ports from Yunxi, Hubei prov­ince.

China Daily (USA) - - CHINA - Con­tact the writer at zhangzhi­hao@chi­nadaily.com.cn

For­manyru­ralpoor, thes­o­lu­tion in re­cent decades has been to be­come a mi­grant worker. How­ever, mil­lions of im­pov­er­ished fam­i­lies sim­i­lar to Qian’s typ­i­cally lack the en­ergy, skills and ed­u­ca­tion to find a job.

In re­sponse, a four-month pi­lot pro­gram — the La­bor As­sis­tance Co­op­er­a­tion Ini­tia­tive — spear­headed by lo­cal gov­ern­ments and com­pa­nies from Hu­nan, Hubei and Guang­dong prov­inces, set out to tar­get each fam­ily’s sit­u­a­tion and help them se­cure sta­ble em­ploy­ment.

The other se­lected coun­ties are Huayuan and Long­shan, both in Hu­nan’s Xiangxi Tu­ji­aMiao au­ton­o­mous pre­fec­ture, named for the re­gion’s two prom­i­nent eth­nic groups.

The pri­mary driv­ers are the Bu­reau of Hu­man Re­sources and So­cial Se­cu­rity, the Ad­min­is­tra­tion of Em­ploy­ment Ser­vices and the Of­fice of Poverty Al­le­vi­a­tion.

The pro­gram started in April and ended in Au­gust. An Aug 15 as­sess­ment re­port said the lessons learned will help when the ini­tia­tive is ex­panded na­tion­wide.

A folk­tale com­ing true

deputy min­is­ter of­pro­pa­ganda.

Through a se­ries of in­di­vid­u­ally tai­lored ar­range­ments and pol­icy in­cen­tives, the gov­ern­ments helped im­pov­er­ished ru­ral work­ers to find the most suit­able and sta­ble work near their homes, or in Guang­dong prov­ince.

Vice-pre­mier Wang Yang pro­posed the pro­gram dur­ing a visit to Yunxi on Feb 25. Since then, thou­sands of gov­ern­ment in­spec­tors have vis­ited the three coun­ties to con­duct de­tailed sur­veys, col­lect­ing in­for­ma­tion, from phone num­bers to work ex­pe­ri­ence, to store on an on­line data­base.

“Iden­ti­fy­ing the size of the avail­able la­bor force, the sta­tus of mi­grant work­ers and each worker’s pref­er­ences may en­sure that every ru­ral worker finds the most suit­able job,” saidWang Lupu, deputy di­rec­tor of the Hu­nan ad­min­is­tra­tion of em­ploy­ment ser­vices.

ChenWei, a 25-year-old from Sanyuan vil­lage in Yunxi, was re­cov­er­ing from a bro­ken leg and needed to find work he could do sit­ting down. OnApril 8, the vil­lage Party sec­re­tary called Chen, told him he sym­pa­thized with his sit­u­a­tion and en­cour­aged him to par­tic­i­pate in the county’s cap­i­tal job fair later that month. He also sent Chen a list of com­pa­nies to choose from.

For Yunxi work­ers, most of the com­pa­nies came from Guangzhou, Shen­zhen, Dong­guan and Foshan in Guang­dong, where de­mand for gen­eral work­ers is high. In ad­di­tion, work­ers fromHuayuan and Long­shan could also opt to work in Chang­sha, Zhuzhou andXiang­tan in­Hu­nan.

The com­pa­nies were hand­picked by the gov­ern­ments of the out­sourc­ing and des­ti­na­tion cities, based on their record of cor­po­rate so­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity and treat­ment of em­ploy­ees. The gov­ern­ments then matched work­ers with Qian Dayan,

from Yunxi county, Hubei prov­ince, found a job as a re­sult of a poverty al­le­vi­a­tion ini­tia­tive

jobs, ne­go­ti­ated con­di­tion­sand or­ga­nized re­cruit­ment fairs based on the hir­ing de­mands sub­mit­ted by the com­pa­nies or col­lected by hu­man re­sources and so­cial se­cu­rity of­fi­cials.

“The gov­ern­ment fa­cil­i­tates the em­ploy­ment process, and the mar­ket de­cides who to hire,” said Kuang Zoufei, deputy chief of Xiangxi pre­fec­ture. “The pro­gram will solve the com­pa­nies’ la­bor short­ages and­poverty in the vil­lages. It’sa win-win sit­u­a­tion.”

By Au­gust, the pro­gram had found jobs for 22,000 new work­ers from Xiangxi and 8,000 from Yunxi, ac­cord­ing to theMin­istry ofHu­man Re­sources and So­cial Se­cu­rity.

The av­er­age monthly salary for those who chose to work in Chang­sha, Zhuzhou, and Xiang­tan ranged from 2,000-4,000 yuan, while those in Guang­dong earned be­tween 3,000-5,000 yuan. “In gen­eral, one em­ployee’s yearly earn­ings are enough to lift the en­tire fam­ily out of poverty,” Kuang said.

Dur­ing the job fair, a com­pany in Shen­zhen signed Chen Wei to work on a pro­duc­tion line — a seated job. “I tried to look for a job on my own and got swin­dled by re­cruiters,” he said. “Nowthe gov­ern­ment has be­come the in­ter­me­di­ary, I feel re­lieved and more se­cure.”

Four months later, Qian Dayan joined the same com­pany as a pro­duc­tion lo­gis­tics worker. “I can fi­nally take care ofmy­self andmy fam­ily again,” he said.

Learn­ing to as­sim­i­late

De­spite the pro­gram’s ef­forts to find the best matches, it’s still a chal­lenge to keep work­ers. Shen­zhen took 201 new ru­ral work­ers dur­ing the pi­lot pro­gram, but the num­ber had fallen to 126 by Au­gust, ac­cord­ing to the as­sess­ment re­port.

Sun­woda, a bat­tery man­u­fac­turer in Shen­zhen, hired 41 work­ers from the pro­gram, but only 28 re­mained by Septem­ber. A lack of fa­mil­iar­ity with fac­tory life was the main rea­son the work­ers re­turn­ing home, ac­cord­ing to Li Zhangyi, Sun­woda’s di­rec­tor of hu­man re­sources.

“Un­like the flex­i­ble work­ing hours on a farm, fac­tory life is rou­tine­an­d­rigidly sched­uled,” he said. “Half of the dropouts had no pre­vi­ous ex­pe­ri­ence of work­ing in a fac­tory, so it was dif­fi­cult for them to ad­just.”

In re­sponse, Yunxi or­ga­nized train­ing cour­ses to teach prospec­tive mi­grant work­ers about eti­quette, work­ing en­vi­ron­ments and rights aware­ness in Shen­zhen.

Chang­sha, a pop­u­lar des­ti­na­tion for Hu­nanese work­ers, opened tele­phone hot­lines, web­sites and so­cial me­dia plat­forms to pro­vide coun­sel­ing and ask work­ers about their em­ploy­ment sta­tus.

Xiangxi es­tab­lished ser­vice cen­ters through­out la­bor des­ti­na­tion cities and of­fered as­sis­tance in data col­lec­tion, job trans­fers and la­bor-rights pro­tec­tion. “We want our work­ers to feel like they are at home when work­ing in for­eign places,” said Shi Yao­hua, the head of Xiangxi’s hu­man re­sources and so­cial se­cu­rity bu­reau.

Com­pa­nies also pro­vided daily ne­ces­si­ties, city tours and gath­er­ings to help new work­ers as­sim­i­late.

Ding Xi­uli, 44, be­came a cleaner at Shen­zhen’s Western Felic­ity Ho­tel af­ter at­tend­ing a job fair in Yunxi. She re­called the­day the­com­pany took her to see the ocean for the first time.

“It was so beau­ti­ful and I had the time of my life,” she said. “Now, I feel like I re­ally be­long here.”

PHOTOS BY ZHANG ZHIHAO / CHINA DAILY

Work­ers make brooms at the Hengda Broom Spe­cial­ized Co­op­er­a­tive in Yunxi county, Hubei prov­ince, on Sept 5. Most of the com­pany’s em­ploy­ees are left-be­hind women, se­niors and dis­abled peo­ple.

Jia Rong­shan, a 52-year-old with a spinal de­for­mity, works as a broom maker for the co­op­er­a­tive.

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