Testimony of a Mongolian Singer (2015)
The Depreciation of the Chinese Yuan - 2014
Dawn of Asia Magazine
The Internatinalization of the Chinese Yuan (2012)
The Fallacy of the US Dollar (2011)
Faces Behind the Label (2010)
Stop The Buck - The RMB Should not Rise (2010)
The Speed Of Money (2009)
Marginalized Migrants in China (2008)
Minority Peoples Groups (2004)

 

Marginalized Internal Migrants in China

 
by Chuck Chan

Migrants, who we called “Floating Population”, are in danger of being marginalized in China’s endeavor for modernization and urbanization.  A recent survey found that 140 million Chinese citizens are working and living in places other than their hometowns. That is more than one-tenth of China’s population. What is more, it is estimated that the total mobile population, of which farmers working in cities make up the vast majority, is between 200 million and 250 million now.  That is almost 20% of China’s population.  This mass of floating population in China is creating many social issues which the government is not quite ready to coop with at this moment.

The contingent of what is called the "floating population" is growing annually by between 6 and 8 million people.  These migrant workers are in danger of being culturally marginalized in the cities.  In cultural terms, migrant workers live on a "lonely island" surrounded by an ocean of material prosperity in cities, according to the China Public Cultural Service Development Report 2007. 1

Urban residents and migrants live in different worlds.  "Urban residents and migrant workers live segregated lives in general, and the former are not much interested in the latter," sociologists at Zhejiang University in Hangzhou said.  “Less than a third of urban residents would communicate with migrant workers regularly, and more than half do not like topics about migrant workers in their daily conversation.” 
 
Although less educated, migrant workers are keen on a richer cultural life, according to the survey. The four things that they want the most to get information and for self-improvement are: television, technical training, books and magazines, and the Internet. 2
 
In the mega-city of GUANGZHOU, pressure from work and home has contributed to the growing suicidal rate among migrants in the southern factory township Dongguan. Dongguan, a manufacturing powerhouse in the Pearl River Delta, is home to about 6 million registered migrants.
 
According to statistics from the Dongguan’s 120 medical emergency centers, 552 people attempted suicide from April to September 10 of 2007. 70% of them were migrants.  A consultation hotline set up by the heath officials there in May, 2007 has received nearly 10,000 calls, of which 80% were from migrants.  "Twenty percent of the people who have called the center said they wanted to commit suicide," Kong Yuxian, director of the emergency center, said, “the number of suicide cases in Dongguan had increased by 25% during the first half of 2007, compared to the same period of last year.”
 
"Some migrants who left their hometowns in search of money in this city have struggled to find relief from the pressure they face at work.  Some migrants, who tend to have little knowledge of their rights, choose to commit suicide when their wages are withheld,” Kong said, “most of suicide victims are young people.”
 

"They do not know how to get along with others. When they have relationship troubles, they think their whole life is over," Kong said.  He also called for more psychological services for migrants.  At present, most hospitals in Dongguan do not provide psychological treatment services.  Kong also pleaded employers to do more to ensure comfortable working and living conditions for migrants.  "They also need to keep in contact with friends and family members to help combat loneliness while working away from home," Kong said. 3

 
Migrants, as "marginalized people", their mental anguish being nurtured at this moment, could result in destabilization of the urbanization process.  Currently, the need for psychological care for these migrants is growing but the number of qualified counselors in China cannot match this need.  Their outcry has not been heard and their pain has not been healed.  China needs to address the social-infrastructure issues more than the hardware building of the modernization process.  Without proper justice and proper human right legislation installed in the cities for these migrants, they can eventually become a destabilization force of the modernization process. 
 
Urbanization, industrial revolution and scientific progress are the products of social transformation. At the very core, the transformation of people's way of life and changes in their social status would be the key.  This transformation needs to be an improvement of their quality of life.  Hopefully, millions upon millions of farmers-turned workers will improve themselves while they are changing the cities and, in turn, the country, in the great process of modernization and urbanization.4

 

Footnotes

1.     China Daily 2007-12-15

2.     China Daily 2007-12-18

3.     China Daily 2007-9-19

4.     China Daily 2007-10-16