At the moment, millions of Chinese are returning home for the Chinese New Year. The thing I find so startling is that when the holiday ends and it should be time for them to head back to the factories, many of them are going to painfully out-of-luck.
It is true that I'm talking about this phenomenon a lot. I feel justified in doing so though. I believe highlighting the millions of people who are about to be unemployed to be an important news story worth of discussion.
Now that I've laid out my doom-and-gloom disclaimer, here is some more, not-too-encouraging, news.
The Associated Press had a very good article yesterday which was packed full of telling statistics and tidbits of interesting information. Here is a snippet from the article:
The migrants' homecoming is flooding villages where wrinkled grandparents and ruddy-faced schoolchildren are the only residents for most of the year. The masses of unemployed and underemployed pose a major challenge for the Chinese government, which must cope with sinking economic growth while calming vast swaths of countryside that have grown used to large transfers of money from migrants working in factories and construction jobs in urban areas.
Migrant workers have an average annual income of about 8,000 yuan ($1,170), while farmers make about 4,800 ($700), said Zhang Jianping, an economist at Minzu University of China. Research from the People's Bank of China says migrant workers contribute 65 percent of their rural family's income.
China has an estimated 150 million rural migrants. In Yilong County, where Beiya is located, more than a quarter of its 1.08 million residents migrate off the farm to find work, according to the local labor bureau.
Meanwhile Bloomberg reports that things are getting pretty ugly in the cities as well. China's unemployment rates are poised to be the highest since 1980:
Jan. 20 (Bloomberg) -- China’s official urban unemployment rate jumped for the first time since 2003 and may climb to an almost 30-year high as exports slump and a slowdown deepens in the world’s third-biggest economy. ...The Chinese New Year is nearly upon us. Families are reuniting and China is about to have its best holiday week of the year.
“Growth has fallen off a cliff in China in recent months,” said Paul Cavey, chief China economist at Macquarie Securities Ltd. in Hong Kong. “It does already feel like a recession for a lot of people.”
The official figure understates unemployment because it doesn’t include those who aren’t registered, including migrant workers. The state-backed Chinese Academy of Social Sciences said the rate including migrant workers may be higher than 9.4 percent in 2009.Read On
What I saw in America over Christmas last month was that even during tough times, being with family and friends can temporarily cure the ills and stresses which nag at its citizens.
For the sake of everyone in China, I hope it is a safe and joyous week next week. For many, it'll be the last escape from, an otherwise harsh, reality for some time.