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English>>China Society

Migrant workers have help at hand

(China Daily)

10:42, November 19, 2012

A migrant worker takes photos with his cellphone at the opening of an art show featuring his peers in Beijing. The use of smartphones is increasing among young migrant workers. Provided to China Daily

Smartphones give low earners options, reports Zhang Yuchen in Beijing.

Modern technology is not only changing the way people work, it is changing the way people, from the highest earners to the lowest, live.

Tang Jianhua, a mother of two, is working at a construction site in northwestern Beijing. She opted for construction work three months ago after she moved up from southern China because of higher pay.

One of the major financial outlays for Tang, 38, was to buy a smartphone for 900-yuan ($144). And after tragedy struck, it also helped rebuild her life. Following the death of her husband, she was able to keep in touch with family and friends and through modern technology, start the painful but necessary process of rejoining society.

She posted messages online via her smartphone and through this connection met someone and later remarried.

Tang's story may be a simple one, but it reflects the situation of low-grade workers, who have only recently embraced technology.

"Smartphones are like vitamins to these people," said Kuang Wenbo, a professor of communications and journalism at Renmin University in Beijing.

According to a survey of blue-collar workers conducted in May, 74 percent of the 22,380 respondents said they accessed the Web through their phones. The survey, conducted by Daguu, an online employment services company that focuses on market demand for low-end labor, indicated that phone use among migrant workers is 2 percent higher than the national average.

Migrant workers account for 60 to 70 percent of smartphone purchases, said a saleswoman named Li who works at the Zhongguancun IT compound, a technological hub in the Haidian district of Beijing.

The workers use their phones to look for jobs, make online purchases, search for information and, most prevalently, play online games and read literature. Their Internet service fees may be as much as 200 yuan per month.

"Because of their living and working habits, these workers have limited access to the outside world through newspapers or other forms of media," said Kuang, "Smartphones have become the most convenient way of keeping up with events and family."

By the second quarter of this year, 45 percent of the handhelds used by Chinese people were smartphones, 33.7 percent of which cost 700 yuan to 1,000 yuan, according to Sino Market Research, a research institution affiliated with the National Bureau of Statistics.

Experts explained that the wide variety of options available in brands and prices means that this easily neglected group, have a chance to change their lifestyles.

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