Monday, February 2, 2009

Rural migrants in China caught in economic downturn

The headline for Sharon LaFraniere's story in today's New York Times is "Joblessness Jumps Sharply Among China's Migrants," and the lede mentions rural migrants in particular:
China’s government offered a telling indicator Monday of the slowdown in its once-galloping economy, announcing that more than one in seven rural migrant workers had been laid off or are unable to find work, twice as many as estimated just five weeks ago.
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About 20 million out of China’s total estimated 130 million migrant workers — whose cheap labor underpins China’s manufacturing sector — have been forced to return to rural areas because of lack of work, according to a survey conducted by the Agriculture Ministry that was cited at a briefing.
The government is expecting increased social unrest as a consequence of the jobs losses and attendant population shift back to countryside. Apparently in anticipation of consequences for rural areas, the Chinese government yesterday issued a report that indicates an increase in government assistance to rural locales, "including expanded subsidies to farmers, greater access to loans and more financing from Beijing for rural development projects."

Read other recent reports on China's rural migrants here and here.

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