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People's Daily Online>>China Business

'Chinese backyard' of Italy about to go bust (2)

By Xu Tianran (Global Times)

10:46, November 23, 2011

In the good days, when "people could still make money" a few years back, more than 90 percent of garment companies hired Italian designers and produced their own brands. A few factories even produced bags for international brands, according to Chen Hongsheng, general secretary of the Overseas Chinese Friendship Association of Prato.

At that time, a Chinese worker could make 15,000 to 30,000 euros ($20,295 to $40,590) a year, working an average of 14 to 15 hours a day, Chen told the Global Times.

"The Italians say it is a violation of regulations for working hours, but we Chinese came here to make money and we are happy to do overtime," said Zheng Xianjie, president of the Overseas Chinese Friendship Association of Prato, who estimated that about 30 percent of Italian garments came from Prato.

However, the situation today is frustrating. "The busy seasons for the garment industry run from September to December and April to July. Now all factories and workshops run at below capacity and Chinese workers are idle with nothing to do," Chen said.

Chinese immigrants began arriving in Prato about two decades ago. In the first decade, they worked for Italian companies and spent the next 10 years establishing their own businesses and Made-in-Italy brands.

Since the first Chinese from Wenzhou, Zhejiang Province, arrived in Prato in 1987, the Chinese population, two thirds of which are illegal immigrants, has increased to more than 50,000, making up 25 percent of the total population of the city. It is estimated that there are more than 3,000 Chinese garment companies and workshops in the city, according to several local Chinese sources.

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