February 27th, 2012 | Shanghai Daily Migrants’ high hopes seen in frequent but futile job changes
WEI Shengyi, a migrant worker in his 20s from a village in Anhui Province, has held 10 jobs over the past three years.
After high school, Wei left his hometown to make a living as a migrant worker and so far he has worked as a serviceman, salesman, and mechanic in seven cities, including Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen, for as little as one week and as long as five months.
His family jokes that he travels more than he works, but Wei believes he has to “drift” to gain more work experience before he can get a decent job with a satisfying salary.
Meanwhile, Peng Liang, who is also from Anhui, quit his job as a courier in Shanghai just days ago because of the workload and low pay; it was the fourth job he has left in two years.
Wei and Peng are examples of a trend of short employment and frequent job-hopping among the vast number of migrant workers, especially those born after 1980, which account for 60.9 percent of the nation’s migrant laborers.
According to a report jointly released by Tsinghua University and Gzhong.cn, a professional website providing free career services to working people, 25 percent of migrant workers have changed jobs in the past seven months and 55 percent have changed jobs in past 1.8 years.
Migrant workers stay at a job for an average of 2.2 years, or half as long as they did eight years ago. But migrant workers born after 1980 stay at a job for 1.5 years and those born after 1990 stay for around 10 months, on average, according to the report.
Moreover, it takes an average of six months for them to find a new job, the report said.
“Compared to their parents, the young generation of migrant workers has higher degrees in education as well as higher expectations for their occupations and positions,” said Du Yang, the director of the Labor and Human Capital division with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
Meanwhile, labor shortage problems are becoming increasingly apparent in China, which offers migrant workers more choices in the job market, thus contributing to their frequent job changes, Du said. But having more choices does not mean they are making more money.
Wei said that he has earned little money over the past two years. He has not sent his money home to help support his family, but asked his parents for 20,000 yuan (US$3,176) to meet living costs in cities.
A recent survey conducted jointly by Xinhua Insight and Gzhong.cn showed that nearly three-quarters of the migrant workers who responded earned an annual net income of less than 20,000 yuan, and 23.4 percent of them expressed “discontent” with their current jobs.
On the one hand, dissatisfaction with salaries prompts ambitious people, like Wei, to constantly seek out new opportunities. But, on the other hand, their hopes of higher wages are often thwarted by their limited educational background and professional abilities, as well as the low level of jobs offered to them.
Moreover, changing jobs isn’t always a choice for migrant workers.
Enterprises are accustomed to hiring temporary workers in order to save on employment costs, then slashing payrolls when orders slide, said Tong Xin, a professor with the Department of Sociology at Peking University.
“In terms of the migrant workers themselves, frequent changes in workplaces will make it difficult for them to establish familiar social circles and get support from social relations,” He Jiangsui with the China University of Political Science and Law said in the Monday edition of China’s flagship newspaper, the People’s Daily.