Migrant Labor from Rural China and Implications for the World
Chen Xiwen is Director of the Central Leading Group on Rural Work in China. Beijing will spend more than 500 billion Yuan in 2008 on rural development. China is not alone in dealing with issues of migrant rural labor. The difference is that no country does as much to improve village life. What does this mean for the world?
The rural countryside is your real visa to China. Anything you can contribute to rural prosperity will pay off in China. More than 70% of the population still lives outside urban areas. It is true that migrant labor in China exceeds 100 million people. However, more than 500 million continue to live in villages. Better rural infrastructure for China is the biggest business opportunity in the world.
Mechanization of agriculture is a priority for rural China. 40% of arable land continues to be ploughed using human and animal power. There are similar gaps in all phases of farm production. China has to deal with looming rural labor shortages. It has also to improve rural life. The official census has found that most villages in China lack water management systems. They do not have waste treatment facilities. Modern toilets are other pressing needs. There are oceanic demands for libraries, gymnasiums, and primary health care.
It is time for a new mind set. China is not all about Shanghai and the other spectacular metropolitan successes. Some of the best new business opportunities are in rural areas. They provide new links between China and the world.