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16 Jun 2022

Nathan Chung, The Guardian (UK)

China: Migrant workers fear more lockdowns as Covid threat remains

"‘We won’t survive’: China’s migrant workers fear more lockdowns as Covid threat remains" 16 June 2022

Migrant workers hit hardest

In 2021 there were more than 292 million Chinese migrant workers across urban and city areas of China. Comprising a third of the country’s workforce, migrant workers are from rural areas or are classified as such through the strict “hukou” household registration system which dictates residential rights including migration and taxation.

According to official data, in 2019 more than 4.5 million migrant workers were registered with employment in Shanghai. Most of this group had no work during lockdown and received no government assistance. Ji says he is envious of office workers who could still earn a living by working from home.

“It’s tough. Migrant workers like me are hit the hardest by these restrictions because we have to really be out to make a living. We don’t have much savings anyway under normal circumstances. In my case, I have two parents to provide for, and my son has just got married, for which we are still in debt because of his betrothal gifts,” he says.

Ji made it through the lockdown thanks to a friend who lent him about 10,000 yuan which helped with rent and expenses. “On average, we need at least 100 yuan to cover our daily expenses, so that money really helped.”

Still, the loan has left him with more debt and Ji says it is hard to find work as he is restricted from entering some parts of the city.

“Some communities still won’t let us in and people are still reluctant to have strangers inside their house for fear of possible Covid infection.” [...]

Like Ji, this group of migrant workers had zero income during the lockdown. Yet caregivers in particular continue to suffer as nursing homes remain shut and many people are too fearful of Covid to bring in help. [...]