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Young Migrants Settle for Life in Big City

They are used to leaving their rural hometowns, they want to make friends with the opposite sex, they like to surf online and they really want to find a balance between living in the city and in the countryside.

"Second-generation migrant workers" are a new social group, according to social expert Shi Ying, who is also deputy director of Shaanxi Provincial Social Science Academy.

He said the central government's 1984 policy encouraging farmers to work in urban areas has changed the country's cultural landscape.

"Compared with first-generation migrant workers, the second generation has a higher educational level, since most of them received middle school or high school education. Usually they are not married yet and most of them know little about agriculture because they work in the cities after graduating," Shi said.

Liu Yong, 23, a farmer from a small mountainous village in Baoji, Shaanxi Province, has been working in the provincial capital of Xi'an for five years. He only returns home for three days during the Spring Festival.

"It wasn't very exciting during the holiday at my village. The house is cold, without heating, the road is muddy when it rains and snows, and there are no entertainments such as karaoke and snooker," Liu said.

For many second-generation migrant workers, Shi said, the annual holiday is the only time to see parents and relatives as their life is mainly focused on living in the city.

In contrast, first-generation migrant workers consider their rural homes to be their main residence and think of themselves as guests in the city.

"I cannot bear looking at the way young people dress. They do not look like us rural people with their strange hairstyles and clothes. How can they live when they spend so extravagantly," said Zhou Shuqi, 44, a migrant worker in Xi'an, from Gansu, a neighboring province of Shaanxi.

Gao Kaifeng, 24, a migrant worker from Zhou's village works on the same construction site but had a contrasting view. He thought Zhou's shabby clothes made people look down on him.

"I often send money back home. I have to feed my children there. When do you send money to your parents?" Zhou asked.

"They do not depend on me for a living right now," Gao answered

Wang Gong, manager of the construction site where Gao and Zhou work, said young migrant workers are different from their senior counterparts.

"They play computer games, chat online, have girlfriends and are keen to mix with urban residents," Wang said.

Zhang Luchao, 26, a migrant worker in Xi'an, from Henan Province in central China, is an example of someone who has succeeded in the city.

"I left my home village to work in the city after graduating from high school and I did different kinds of work, which gave me great experience to start my own business," Zhang said.

After working in south China for three years, Zhang was a salesman for a large company and did well in Xi'an. Later, he bought a house in the city and became an urban resident.

"I think the second-generation migrant workers have a disadvantage in terms of higher education, working and social experiences and skills and support from their parents and relatives. But they can overcome these difficulties if they have a perfect plan for their future," Zhang said.

Liu Yong, however, works in a factory for 1,000 yuan (US$140) a month. He rents a small room for 180 yuan a month and has canteen meals at the factory.

"I cannot save much money and I have no idea about my future. The only thing I know at present is that I do not like living in a rural area and I will go on working in the city," Liu said.

"The most important thing is to help the second-generation migrant workers take responsibility for their families and society and develop their self-confidence. They should understand that they can only rely on themselves to create their future," social expert Shi said.

Ban Li, director of the Policy Research Office of Shaanxi Provincial Women's Federation, said the improving social security system guarantees the rights and interests of migrant workers and they should study hard to increase their skills and make good future plans in order to settle into city life.

(China Daily February 26, 2008)

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