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January 29, 2014

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Not all migrants keen to make the trip home

Like millions of Chinese migrant workers, Zhang Boli wanted to be with his family during the Spring Festival. Instead, he will stay in Shanghai and look for a part-time job.

Zhang is not alone in deciding to stay back. A recent online survey of over 13,156 migrant workers across the country — 931 from Shanghai — found nearly 40 percent of them will not be going home for the most important festival of the year. And the main reason for that is earning less than expected in the year gone by.

Zhang, 40, a native of Xiayi County in central China’s Henan Province, is a security guard at an office complex on Weihai Road.

He said he would be embarrassed to be with his family because he can’t buy them gifts. It makes sense, he said, to make extra cash during the holiday. Zhang said nearly half of the 20-odd security guards in his company are planning to stay back in Shanghai for the same reason.

In 2012, Shanghai had a population of 23.8 million which included 9.6 million migrants.

“Going home is too costly. Tradition dictates that I must give money to children and elders and buy gifts for relatives,” Zhang told Shanghai Daily.

Zhang estimated a trip home would cost him at least 3,000 yuan (US$495). After thinking hard, he decided to save the money for his children’s tuition for the next semester.

Other reasons given by migrant workers for skipping the trip home are that it is easier to find jobs, high transport costs and difficulty in obtaining tickets, and good overtime pay.

“All these are excuses. The most crucial reason is that you don’t want to be embarrassed and lose face in front of your family with little money to carry home,” Zhang said.

He will be looking for a job during the holiday.

Zhang said he missed his son and daughter very much but won’t go home until June to harvest wheat. “I will wish my family a Happy New Year on the phone. I hope my children will understand the tough life of their father and study hard for a better future,” Zhang said.

Like Zhang, Lao Ji, a native of Lianyungang City in neighboring Jiangsu Province, also chose not to go home this year because his wife would be working during the Spring Festival holiday.

“Nowadays it’s not easy to find a job in Shanghai. My wife likes her job as a supermarket cashier, so we decided to stay,” Lao told Shanghai Daily.

Lao has been in Shanghai for 20 years, and works as a sanitary worker at an outlet of Hualian Supermarket on Dagu Road.

Till 2009, Lao went back to Jiangsu to be with his parents for every Spring Festival. Now, he considers Shanghai his home with his wife and children all living with him here.

“My brother and I take turns to see our parents to make sure they are not lonely or in need,” Lao said, adding that his parents do not want to come to Shanghai because of different living habits and customs.

Fruit-seller Liao Guanghua also will not be going home.

“I’m not going home. Fruits sell the best during the Spring Festival when people take them as gifts for friends and families,” said Liao, a Jiangxi Province native.

Liao said he will go home after the Spring Festival when the business returns to normal.

“My parents understand why I come late. After all, we are all working for a good life,” Liao told Shanghai Daily.



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