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Recruiting Tibetan Youth: a New Mode of Poverty Reduction

Norbu Zhaxi, a 17-year old Tibetan, who herded yak before coming to the city, can skillfully operate machines now. He and other 50 youths were the first batch of Tibetans employed in Tianjin based on the "rain and dew" plan that aims to aid southwest China's Tibetan Autonomous Region. Recently, Tianjin has planned to recruit a second batch of Tibetan youth to help alleviate poverty in Tibet.

Norbu Zhaxi and Sonam Rigzin, both wearing work clothes, were busy working in front of machines inside a medical apparatus and instruments factory in the Beichen Industrial zone in Tianjin. After several days of work, they have become acquainted with their new environment as well as the altitude and climate. There is still "plateau red", however, on their faces due to their long-term exposure to ultraviolet irradiation, making them quite distinguishable among other workers.

Norbu Zhaxi comes from Qvxv County, while Sonam Rigzin is from Maizhokunggar Township. Both their hometowns are extremely poor areas in Tibet. Sonam finished his junior high school education and passed the township senior high school entrance examination. It cost more than 1,000 yuan to pay the tuition fees every year. His sister also wanted a senior high school education. The family lived by herding yaks and could not afford two pupil's tuition fees, so Sonam had to quit his studies and apply for work in Tianjin.

"It is nice to work here, I earn the most in my family," Sonam said and smiled. He works as an operator in the factory, and earns about 700 yuan (US$94.68) every month; the factory provides his lodging and meals. Two months of Sonam's payments equal to his whole family's cash earnings for one year, which makes him feel proud and successful.

A pure-white hada (khabtag) hangs on the door of Norbu and Sonam's dorm. It is a traditional convention of Tibetans. Those who move to a new home hang a hada, representing their yearnings for their family. It is the first time for either of them to move to such a distant place, faraway from their hometown. This year, they have to stay in Tianjin to celebrate the Tibetan New Year Festival, Norbu said, watching Sonam wipe off tears as he spoke.

Li Zhigang is the manager of the Tianjin Changjiu Yixuan Consulting Co., Ltd, and in charge of this poverty reduction project. In the past, Tianjin carried out assistance projects for Tibet mainly through donations. It is the first time the city has employed Tibetan laborers and improved their living conditions by increasing their earnings and teaching them new skills and techniques, said Li.

They recruited 63 Tibetan youths via a local office for poverty alleviation as the first batch to work in Tianjin. These people were distributed to various places around the city, including the development zone. Great corporations such as Otis Co., Ltd, and Global Magnetic Card Co., Ltd. took on some youths. These young people mainly work as technical operators or waiters. "Other enterprises also accept this form of employment," said Li. The feedback from businesses demonstrates that it is very difficult for them to employ such low-wage operators, so the introduction of Tibetan workers kills two birds with one stone.

However, the city has sent back 12 Tibetan workers. Various problems have cropped up: poor adaptability to the city environment and oxygen content of the low-altitude areas. Currently, there are only 51 Tibetan workers staying here, and all are male.

The Tianjin Changjiu Yixuan Consulting Co., Ltd held their second recruitment project with the Tibetan office of poverty alleviation in November. They echoed the requirements of Tianjin enterprises that highly appreciate the performance of the Tibetan workers. They plan to employ more female laborers

The "rain and dew" plan hopes to solve the difficulties facing poor areas such as the employment of young farmers, and real problems that appear when starting up enterprises. With the purpose of improving rural laborers' all-around quality, enhancing their abilities to apply for jobs and create new enterprises, the plan aims to increase poor farmers' incomes and accomplish an effective job transfer via vocational education, employment training and agricultural technical training.

(China Development Gateway by Sun Wan December 25, 2007)

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