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People's Daily Online>>China Society

Chinese migrant builds life in 'toilet home' (2)


09:25, March 28, 2012

But living in a toilet is not always as "comfy" as he describes.

Though the restroom has long been deserted, Zeng said he has to flush the toilet frequently to "wash away" the stinky odors that creep down through the pipes from the functional toilet above his home. And long-term exposure to the humid atmosphere has left his child with eczema.

Zeng said he wants to find a better paying job and move his family into a proper home. But earning extra money is not easy, as he still has to wire money home to his aging parents in the countryside and the family will soon have to spend money on the child's education.

Zeng's struggles caused an online sensation after pictures of his "toilet home" were posted on the Internet. Compassion poured in and aid money was pledged from around the country.

China's 240 million rural migrant workers in cities and factory towns are crucial for keeping the world's second-largest economy humming. But many migrant workers live in undesirable conditions, have limited access to health care, education, and social security resources, and they face challenges in holding their families and marriages together.

Many migrants in big cities rough it out in makeshift tents and basements or crowd into dilapidated apartment rooms.

"Migrant couples like the Zengs toil in cities for years. They create value for society and deserve a proper life," said Tao Shuangbin, a sociology professor at Shenyang Normal University.

"The government should draw more policies to support migrants in terms of housing and health care," he said.

Government officials said migrant workers in Shenyang will be allowed to submit applications for government-subsidized apartments by the end of this year.

Subsidized apartments are usually allocated to low-income city residents, excluding migrant workers who generally lack urban household registration, or "hukou," in their newfound cities. But rules have recently been relaxed in several cities to boost the welfare of migrant workers.

Fu Hongning, head of Shenyang's Migrant Workers Rights Protection Center, said that although only 10 percent of the 36,000 public rental housing units would be open to the families of migrant workers this year, it is an applaudable move taken by the Shenyang government in helping the struggling migrants in the city.

"The living conditions of some migrant workers will get a fundamental boost," Fu added.

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