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Women Study Their Way to Prosperity

Female migrant workers in the southern city of Shenzhen are increasingly choosing to hit the schoolbooks to improve their life prospects.


"Studying helps me keep abreast of our ever-changing society," said Luo Jinying, a soft-spoken woman in her early 20s who works as the HR administrator of a local LCD factory.


Her job prospects were not always so high. When Luo first came to Shenzhen from the city of Heyuan in Guangdong in 2002, she had only a middle school-level education. Because of her academic background, the only job she was qualified to do was work on an assembly line.


"I came to realize that if I were ever going to get a better job, I would have to do much more to increase my knowledge," Luo said.


Luo decided to change course and spent most of her free time over the next three years working toward a university certificate in computer science.


"Having acquired so much new knowledge, I was soon promoted to ISO (International Organization for Standardization) quality controller and then transferred from the factory to the company's human resources and logistics department," Luo said with a smile.


Luo is now enrolled in a bachelor's degree program and majoring in economics.


"I believe that the knowledge I gain from the course will help me with my future career," Luo told China Daily.


Shenzhen is home to 1.6 million female migrant workers, according to figures provided by the Shenzhen statistic bureau.


"Female migrant workers have become a driving force of Shenzhen's social and economic development, and so their professional development has a large effect on the city," Yang Sizhong, a visiting professor to Shenzhen University, said.


"Migrant workers are increasingly eager to acquire new knowledge and techniques, and we will do whatever we can to meet their expectations," said a recent report by Shenzhen's government.


Since its establishment in 1980, Shenzhen has developed three educational platforms culture, professional training and academic qualifications, giving migrant workers a variety of choices for furthering their professional development.


Zheng Yanping is another worker who has benefited from education. Though she is some 20 years older than Luo, her zeal for knowledge appears to be no less intense.


"Opportunities are only reserved for those who are ready to take them," Zheng said. "You have to believe that your hard work will pay off."


Zheng, a native of Guangdong's Shaoguan, was lured to Shenzhen by the prospect of finding work in a factory in 1982, making her part of what some people call "Shenzhen's first generation of female migrant workers".


Zheng received her master's degree in law in 1999.


"Today's migrant workers enjoy much better living and working conditions than we did they should seize these chances to better develop themselves," Zheng said.


"As long as they study hard and keep their dreams alive, they will reap a fine harvest."


Zheng made these remarks not long after being reunited with some of the women with whom she originally worked 25 years ago. Chen Xiaoxia, Liang Min, Chen Xiaowei and Zheng Mei'e all worked with Zheng Yanping at a factory when they first came to Shenzhen.


But how times have changed. Chen Xiaoxia and Liang Min both now own their own restaurants in the city. Chen Xiaowei is the vice-director of the Bao'an branch of the China Merchant Bank.


Zheng Mei'e became the finance manager of a Shekou's local newspaper after studying in accounting while simultaneously working in a factory some 20 years ago.


"We were known as the first group of female migrant workers in Shenzhen. Another thing we all have in common is that we never stopped studying, no matter how harsh the living or working environment was," Zheng said.


"Studying has given me everything that I have today."


(China Daily February 2, 2007)

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