Every day after work, Tang Yachao, a software programmer in Tianjin commutes for an hour by bus to get home in the city's suburb.
The apartment is located in Houtai where advertisements reading "beds for lease" are pasted on the walls everywhere.
The 24-year-old uses one of the seven beds squeezed in a rented two-bedroom apartment. He pays 200 yuan (32.7 U.S. dollars) a month for the small private space.
The seven tenants are not local. Despite getting home late they prefer to cook at home in order to save money.
In China's metropolitans like Beijing, Tianjin and Shanghai, millions of urban workers even with a higher education degrees like Tang can only afford low-rent apartments in urban fringe areas, as house prices are beyond their reach.
In Tianjin, the number of wealthy people increased at the fastest rate among all major cities in China in 2012 with 19,000 multimillionaires and 1,400 megamillionaires, up 11 percent and 12 percent respectively year on year, according to the 2013 GMK-Hurun Wealth Report released on Wednesday.
Despite such wealth circling, Tang has little money to enjoy the city.
Figures from the National Bureau of Statistics showed that China's urbanization rate reached 54.6 percent by the end of 2012. However, there is a big gap between large cities and medium and small-sized ones.
In fact, there is an obvious gap in the inner city between the downtown and suburban regions.
In the fringe zone of Tianjin, Tang feels that public services are incomplete and communities are tacky and unsafe.
"Pick-pocketing is common. It's never safe to carry anything," Tang said.
In Tianjin, the migrant population has reached 27.8 percent, or 3.9 million.
"For such a big migrant population proportion, the unbalanced situation in the city is really a threat for further urbanization," said Guan Xinping, director of the department of social work and social policy with Nankai University.
HARD TO BLEND IN
A 35-year-old woman surnamed Qin carries out waste recycling work around Houtai, where Tang lives.
After working in the city for 10 years, the woman from central China's Henan Province can only afford a damp bungalow that her family rents. Her monthly salary of about 3,000 yuan is barely enough to pay rent for a small apartment downtown.
"Due to my occupation, I feel discriminated against by local residents," Qin said, "but what I am most worried about is the health of my family, as I cannot afford medical bills. A migrant worker like me does not have the city's social insurance to cover medical fees."
A shoe store businessman surnamed Wang said he still feels like an outsider although he has lived in Tianjin for 15 years. He has a car and an apartment.
He does not have the right to apply for a local household registration (known as hukou in China) despite having a property and residency.
"Hukou is important for my child, without which he can only sit the college entrance exam in my rural hometown in Henan Province. He needs to obtain higher scores than his peers in Tianjin in order to pursue a university place in the city," Wang said.
NOT EASY TO LEAVE?
Long hours commuting and poor living prospects have made big cities unattractive for migrants. However, leaving is not an easy choice either.
Tang said he does not actually like big cities, but there are few jobs in his hometown of Chengde in north China's Hebei Province.
"Small towns like Chengde do not have jobs for university graduates majoring in software engineering. That is why I have to struggle for a living in Tianjin," he said.
Few of the migrants are willing to go back to their rural homes and live off farming, because they want to earn money for their next generation.
The central authorities are aware of the inner city unbalance caused by the country's urbanization process.
Chinese President Xi Jinping said at a meeting in July that second and third-tier cities must improve their attractiveness to the migrant population.
Xiao Yanyang, vice professor of the department of urban planning with Hunan University, said migrant workers crowded in mega-cities should be encouraged to move to second and third-tier cities to improve their living conditions.
He said Chinese cities used to be movitated by population flow from rural areas to cities. However, for further urbanization, infrastructure construction should outpace population growth to make cities more attractive to live in.