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February 1, 2010

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Happier holiday this time

CUI Tongming, a migrant farmer working in Suzhou, eastern China Jiangsu Province, is returning home with his wife and daughter to a small village in Jiangxi Province for the Spring Festival, carrying five suitcases full of gifts for family and friends.

About 152 million migrant workers like Cui will travel home for the festival holiday, the most important traditional festival for family reunions.

Although the 10-hour train trip on hard seats is tiring, the 41-year-old is happy to be going home with more than 15,000 yuan (US2,200) he earned in the past nine months. It's a far cry from last year.

The shoe factory where Cui worked in the southern Guangdong Province was closed late last year due to a slump in overseas orders. Cui had to return to his mountain village earlier than expected.

"I had lost hope of earning any money then. But I had to support my parents and young daughter," Cui said. "The journey home is almost the same every year, but I am in a different mood from last year."

Millions of Chinese migrant workers returned home from eastern and southern cities, the country's export powerhouses, at the end of 2008 and the start of 2009, as factories closed or slashed production due to waning exports caused by the global economic slowdown.

The recovery of the country's economy since the second quarter led to rising demand for construction workers, office cleaners, couriers and others.

It also helped to land Cui a job as a bricklayer in Suzhou.

"I like working in Suzhou, as I can stay close to my wife and daughter," Cui said.

"My wife, Zhang Meiling, has been working in this city for two decades and is serving as a gate guard for a local primary school. She told me that I might find a new job here as the city was full of vigor."

Zhang said she now feels home in Suzhou. "When I first came to Suzhou to work in a textiles firm 20 years ago, my salary was half that of local residents. Now I can get equal pay and insurance like other support staff at the school," Zhang said.

Millions of migrants are enjoying a better work environment and an improving social security as the government is stepping up efforts to help migrant workers find jobs in cities or towns near their villages.


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