Young migrants seek urban identity




China's fast urbanization has brought millions of farmers from the countryside into the cities.

And now, the first generation of their children have grown up there.

But unlike their parents who worked with their hands to support their families, these young people are pursuing something different.


27-year-old Yin Tao came from Liaocheng City in east China's Shandong Province.

He has worked as an electrician at a construction site in the provincial capital of Jinan for four years, putting the skills he learnt at vocational school into practical use.

Yin had a lot in common with other rural migrant workers born during, and after, the 1980s. They are educated, ambitious, and as eager as ever to embrace a city life.

Before settling in Jinan, Yin tried but failed to get a good job in Beijing.

But the experience opened his eyes to dazzling city life.


"Sometimes life is not so convenient at home compared in cities. For example, there are many choices for entertainment after work in cities and you can take taxi if you like. You don't get all these things in my hometown."

Now, in Jinan, Yin works very hard, as he aims higher than ever.


"This job is just a stopgap. I want to find a better job in the next few years, so I'm meeting new people and making contacts to prepare myself for future opportunities."

Yin has now moved his family to the city and his wife has also got a job on a construction site.

The couple have a clear plan for their future -- sending their child to an urban school and buying a house in the city.


"Many migrant workers have failed to make a successful career in cities. I think a lack of education and skills is largely to blame. I don't want to return to my home village. There's nothing to keep me staying there. For example, eduction in cities is much better than that in villages. Cities also offer more opportunities. I was in the village when I was still a child. But once I came to cities, I found a whole new world. I want my child to receive education in cities."

Like Yin, his colleague Li Kai, didn't want to go back to the countryside either.

Born in the 1990s, Li adapted to urban life quickly.

He said his father had also worked in cities, but didn't travel as far as he did.

While his father worked simply to put food on the table, Li always wants more.


"I'm working hard and want to get a promotion. I hope my work can be recognized."

Decent jobs, promotions and recognition as well as living as urban residents...

These are some of the things China's young migrant workers, who ask for more than simply making money, are aiming for.

To be continued... In fact, the pursuit of an urban identity is driving more and more migrant workers from construction sites to the service sector.

SOUNDBITE (CHINESE) ZHANG TINGGUO, Project security manager:

"Fewer young people are willing to be construction workers. Most of them can't bear the hardship of working on construction sites. I think the number of young construction workers will continue to drop in the future."

Han Keqing, a professor at Renmin University, says society should reconsider the identity of this new generation of migrant workers.

SOUNDBITE (CHINESE) HAN KEQING, Professor, Renmin University:

"Many of them were born and grew up in cities. They tend to share a lot of views and lifestyles with their urban peers."

The professor also says society should recognize their knowledge and ability, and ensure they receive equal access to jobs and other resources.

Last week, the Communist Party of China published a key policy document after wrapping up the third plenum of its 18th Central Committee.

The party has pledged to accelerate the reform of the "hukou" system, or household registration system, to help farmers and other rural residents move into cities.

It's expected that more supportive policies will be put forward to help migrant workers and their children pursue their dreams of living in cities.