"Second generation" migrant workers pose new challenges to China's urbanization drive

08:55, March 15, 2010      

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Lack of schooling, sensitive to urbanites'' eyes, indifference to farmland and longing for a decent life in cities, the "second generation" migrant farmer workers are emerging in China and posing new challenges to the country's rapid urbanization process.

Born in the late 1980s and early 1990s, they have become more involved in urban life, while some even grew up on the margins of cities and have never taken up farming, unlike their predecessors who flooded into cities to make money and seldom considered settling down.

The new generation have a dream bigger than money, which is also the hope of their parents.

"We will never hope our children are also called migrant workers," said Zhu Xueqin, a migrant worker from Shanghai and a deputy to the National People''s Congress (NPC), the country''s top legislature.

"Our children were born in cities and have no affections for farmland -- some of them have never been to the countryside," she said on the sidelines of the ongoing NPC annual session in Beijing.

"We are always very busy and do not have so much time to exchange ideas and views with them. Besides, they are not able to enjoy adequate school education," she said.

As an NPC deputy, Zhu has often visited juvenile prisons in Shanghai for psychological tutoring over the past two years, and she found that quite a few delinquents were the "second generation" migrant workers.

"They are fragile and sensitive, they feel they are always discriminated, and they are prone to bear hostilities toward cities and urbanites," she said.

"The new generation will likely lead to more social problems in the future," she said.

Zhu''s worries highlighted the unprecedented, complicated challenges brought about by China''s migrant workers, whose population has exceeded 200 million.

Their hard labor has helped to ensure an 8-percent economic growth for China last year and contributed to the recovery of global economy, but they are still marginalized in cities.

Due to the restriction of the household registration system, or hukou, migrant workers have not been granted the exactly same status as city dwellers and they have been denied adequate access to education, medical care, housing, employment and other public services.

Those issues, or a complex of economy, politics, society, culture and others, have become increasingly outstanding as the "second generation" of migrant workers become adults and reach the age of labor.

"The new generation of migrant workers is a generation with dreams," said Prof. Xie Jianshe of the Guangzhou University, a specialist on migrant worker studies.

"They are more attached to cities, rather than rural villages. They are eager to blend into cities, but they are unable to break through the barrier of system and culture. When they go back to the the countryside, they find themselves unable to do farming," he said.

Xie and his colleagues have done surveys in prisons in Guangdong and Jiangxi provinces, and they have drawn the same conclusion as Zhu.

"The new generation of migrant workers will bring about grave challenges to social development as they are unable to become part of cities in a natural way," he said.


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