CHINA

Standing unemployed under the Liu Li bridge

Jia Ze Wei is one of 150 million Chinese "Mingong" -modern slaves or workers - who leave their village in search of work in Beijing, one of the richest regions in China. Jia Ze Wei comes to Beijing's Liu Li bridge area every morning in a bid to make some money to support his family back in the village.

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   (Crédit : Ana F.)

Jia Ze Wei is one of 150 million Chinese "mingong" -modern slaves or workers who leave their village in search of work in Beijing, one of the richest regions in China.  Jia Ze Wei comes to Beijing's Liu Li bridge area in a bid to make some money to support his family back in the village.

           Banner reads: "It is prohibited to look for work here" (Photo: Ana F.)

 

Jia Ze Wei, a migrant worker in Beijing, doesn't read the newspaper nor does he have access to a television or the radio. But he knows times are tough and that it's not easy to find a job.

I've been coming here every morning for the past two years. I can do anything from painting to woodwork in the construction sector. When I came back to Beijing in February 2009, I realised that the year was going to be rough.

In 2008, I earned close to 60 yuan (6.7 euros) per day and was able to send my family about four thousand yuan. Now things have changed.  I only make about 40 yuan (4.6 euros) per day. But I need money for rent and food. The days I find work, I spend 15 yuan for a "Mingong" dormitory bed in the building's basement. It's crammed, dirty and noisy. I'm exhausted by 7pm so I fall asleep immediately. The days I don't work, I can't afford to spend as much so I simply sleep at the local station's entrance or in the hallway. For now it's ok because the weather is pleasant but it was very difficult in February.

It's the same principle for food: the days I work, I buy a bowl of noodles and goat tripe soup. Other days I eat Mantou (Chinese steamed buns). I buy three or four for 1 yuan.

I can't go back to my village even though I don't live too far from here (Han Dan is 392 kms south of Beijing). The train ticket costs 60 yuan but most of the "Mingong" come from Gansu or Henan. They paid 300 yuan to get to Beijing. Now they are stuck here. They can't afford to spend such a large amount to return home.

At the same time, we can't stay here either, it's prohibited. There are many clandestine workers in this area. As soon as we spot policemen we leave and come back later."