Massive migrant workers return to E China for jobs closer to home

By Zheng Shaozhong, Zhu Lei, People’s Daily

Taking a sip of tea, Chen Donghua, head of a garment factory in Ganzhou, East China’s Jiangxi Province, unfolded the story of how he started his business. “To have a cup of the tea from my hometown was a dream of mine over 20 years ago when I worked out-of-town,” the man told the People’s Daily.

Forced to drop out of school due to poverty, Chen left his hometown Yudu county for work in Xiamen, Southeast China’s Fujian Province at 19 years old. The man worked almost all jobs in the garment manufacturing industry, from lathe worker to factory manager. Finally, he gained his own OEM business in 2004, and that was after he had left his hometown for 13 years.

In 2015, Chen decided to move a branch of his to Yudu county under the matchmaking efforts of the local garment association. He was offered factory buildings and exempted from two years of rent. Three years later, the man built his second plant in Yudu in which he established a poverty alleviation workshop. Around 80 percent of the employees working for the plant are locals, including 20 from impoverished households.

Over the recent years, over 60 garment enterprises above designated size have settled in an industrial park in Yudu county, most of which were established by migrant workers returning home. Resuming work after COVID-19, the industrial park has created jobs for 15,000 people, including around 5,000 impoverished ones.

“We are not taking a one-size-fits-all approach, but developing an industrial system that suits local conditions and building poverty alleviation workshops on top of it,” said Lai Wailai, deputy director of Ganzhou’s poverty alleviation office .

“The returnees have established 1,248 poverty alleviation workshops that created jobs for 12,071 impoverished laborers,” Lai introduced. These workshops can enjoy a series of favorable policies and subsidies as long as they create a certain number of jobs for impoverished people, he further introduced.

So far, 169,000 returnees have started their own businesses, creating 435,000 jobs, including 23,000 for impoverished people.

Liu Xiaoying, a woman from Xianxia township of Yudu county who used to work in Guangzhou, South China’s Guangdong Province with his husband, now works for Chen Donghua’s factory in Yudu. Earning 3,000 yuan per month with board and lodging provided, Liu also gets free bus services every week back home to see her child. This was never possible when she worked away from home. At that time, she and her husband made a total of 6,000 yuan per month, but nothing much was left after they paid rent and other necessary expenses.

She told the People’s Daily that her husband was still working out-of-town, but she was trying to persuade him to come back.

“A total of 1.45 million migrant workers from Ganzhou have returned home,” said Wu Yuming, deputy director of the human resource bureau of the city. Jobs closer to home also help alleviate rural hollowing, Wu said.

Ganzhou started its heroic fight against poverty since 1990s, and the last 7 impoverished counties of the city were lift out of poverty this year. From 2011 to 2019, the poverty incidence in Ganzhou dropped from 26.71 percent to 0.37 percent. Ruijin was the first to eradicate poverty in the city in 2018, and this year, southern Ganzhou also eliminated poverty on its territory. The city has achieved decisive victory on poverty alleviation .