Erenlai - Social Changes and Challenges 變動中的華人社會
Social Changes and Challenges 變動中的華人社會

Social Changes and Challenges 變動中的華人社會

Here are materials that examine and assess the current issues that are influencing the Pacific-Asian culture and society.

經濟發展所產生的變動已經全面衝擊了人們的生活型態與觀念。

 

 

 

Saturday, 07 April 2007

Migrants, Unemployment and Menial Employment

An estimated 150-200 million Chinese rural workers are currently living and working in cities. Their number has risen rapidly from just two million in the 1980s and is expected to grow even further, with some estimating 300 million by 2015. The household registration system requires them to register with local authorities as temporary residents. They face discrimination in housing, education, healthcare and employment on the basis of their temporary status, though several cities are presently working towards improving their condition. The ones who are unable to complete the process are left with no legal status, making them vulnerable to further exploitation by police, landlords, local residents and employers. According to an International Labor Organization report, a random check on 134 companies by the Labor Department of Suizhou City in Hubei revealed that not a single one had issued any labor contracts.

China’s urban migrants sent home the equivalent of almost 30 billion US$ in 2005. Employers often take advantage of internal migrants’ vulnerable status by withholding billions of yuan in unpaid wages. The Ministry of Construction announced that the total value of defaulted construction fees and non-payment of wages reached 186 billion yuan (US$22.5 billion) at the end of 2003. The crisis of migrants’ unpaid wages has been recognized by central level officials, who have repeatedly urged local governments to ensure that internal migrant workers are paid on time.

School and healthcare fees have a disproportionate impact on migrant workers, whose incomes are on average lower than other urban residents. For migrant families, various additional fees make attendance at state schools prohibitive. In Chengdu the temporary additional schooling fee was in the range of 400 yuan (US$48) per semester for primary school and 1,000 yuan (US$120) per semester for secondary school in 2002. And most migrants in China’s cities live without health insurance, rarely visit a doctor, and only go to the hospital in the most extreme cases of illness or injury. “The total insurance rate of rural migrants is universally very low though insurance on labor injures are considerable. Total rate of pension insurance only is 15%, and average rate of medical insurance is about 10%, but most rural migrants can not be covered of unemployment insurance and birth insurance provides by government.”

The problems met by migrant workers also reflect the tensions on China’s labor market, with a rise in unemployment and menial employment. “The “new urban poverty” is in large measure due to a change in the urban economic environment. The state sector and urban collective enterprises that have traditionally been the sources of employment for the urban labor force have been losing jobs, a trend that is expected to continue apace for some years. The non-state sector has grown but not rapidly enough to absorb both surplus rural labor and redundant urban labor. ”

In 2006, China needed to create 25 million jobs in the cities and had created only 9 million. Besides, menial employment or self-employment now constitute around half of all urban jobs. According to the Ministry of Labor and Social Security, China’s labor supply is expected to top 830 million by 2010. In urban areas, an additional 50 million city residents will join the labor force by 2010, but only 40 million jobs will be created during this period. Millions of other jobs will also have to be created to accommodate an additional 45 million rural migrant workers who have been encouraged to leave rural areas to reduce the labor surplus in the countryside.
According to State statistics, the current number of migrant workers is estimated at 150 million, or 11.5 per cent of the population, nearly double that of 10 years ago

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Wednesday, 04 April 2007

Migrant Workers and Local Development

The migration of young people from the Chinese countryside to cities raises a number of questions about the future of rural and mountainous areas. Will this exodus create deserted areas, without working force and creativity, or will these youth come back to transform and energize their place of origins? Here are a few reflections that come from my experience as an intermediary for developing sourcing of Chinese products by foreign companies. I often say to my clients that the labour cost in China should remain stable in the coming years as there is a large reservoir in China’s countryside – though I am starting to wonder whether the supply is so large after all.

 

I like to discuss with migrant workers at our suppliers’ place. Generally speaking, they are happy with their situation even if social safety net is lacking. The typical young migrant worker stays in the city for 3 to 5 years and then returns home for marrying a local woman. I remember the night watchman of a small brush joint-venture in Tianjin, he was so happy to have found this job: “My life is very comfortable here, I have heating and a shower, and I can eat 3 hot meals a day, my wife is working in the factory during the day when I sleep; in the evening, when the workers are back home, the general manager gives us the opportunity to produce more brushes. I have the chance to be with my wife at night when she sleeps, I look after the factory and can make more brushes, together we get 4 salaries each month probably 20 fold what we would earn in our village; after 3 years I will be back to my hometown near Yan’an, then I can buy the largest cave house of the village with a small plot of arable land and have a quite life with my friends for the rest of my life.”

 

These workers learn a lot and will certainly bring back know-how. I believe that the recent development of Chinese countryside comes from such people. Nearly all of them are going home for each Chinese New Year, and many do not come back afterwards, even if they promised to do so. Only the cleverest ones will go up in the hierarchy or start their own company and stay in the city. The ones who speak English will have a greater chance to stay, and will get far higher pay, these as white collars have few chance to go back.

 
The employers I meet have more and more difficulties to find workers (more in Guangdong who seem to pay less than in Shanghai area), and some decide to move their factories inland to follow the workmanship. Some of my clients hesitate to purchase from suppliers who require extensive overtime from their workers, but the workers prefer to work more during a short period and get a better pay. I therefore ask myself: why should we consider overtime on a year per year basis? Working double time during three years and then having a 3 years holiday at home might come to the same...
 

Summing up, migration is a decision taken by an individual within the frame of possibilities offered to him or her. It is also largely a side effect of schooling and development, directly or … indirectly: The creation of a primary school in a remote village often goes with the introduction of electricity in the village, electricity allowed for the purchase of TV sets, and TV spread the use of Mandarin language, which enabled people to find jobs out of their home place (statistics tell us that still less than half of Chinese people speak correct mandarin !)

 
The development of local initiative in the countryside, partly due to the coming home of migrant workers, should be progressive and based on local initiative. Tourism is certainly a service industry with much potential, as can be seen in many places of China. Let me give here some examples:
 
Songpan: the main attraction is a horse team started and developed by a local; they propose horse treks (2 to 15 days) at 100Y/ person/ day all inclusive, one guide will accompany 2 visitors and supply horse, tent & sleeping bag, the team supplies the food.
 
TLG (Tiger leaping Gorge) near Lijiang: many simple private inns developed aside the gorge providing food, accommodation and guides. It seems it developed completely from private initiative with the help of some backpackers.
 
"Nongjiale" in the suburbs of Peking, Shanghai, Chengdu,… designed mainly for town people wishing to spend one week-end enjoying bio fresh food in the countryside, some offering fishing.
 
Heshun near Tengchong (Yunnan at the border of Burma) is an example of the development of old villages. Heshun is so isolated that it can cater only to Yunnan people. It has 5 to 10 private hotels, many restaurants, it developed some commerce of souvenirs, and reactivated the local customs of which the locals are very proud.
 
Once again, economic development starts from local developers. Helpers from outside can still organize task forces for support: teaching project management, giving and exchanging ideas, and providing some technical know-how on management and marketing.



 

Monday, 26 March 2007

新社會主義農村建設在四川

中國目前正在進行新社會主義農村建設,希望朝向更為和諧的小康社會發展,並平衡城鄉差距。這項大型的計劃包括建設房舍(例如模範街)、興建行政與衛生中心,並創造新的經濟發展機會,特別是以旅遊的方式吸引城市的觀光客來訪。
這裡的圖片是2006年到2007年所拍攝的,具體呈現了成都正在進行的新社會主義農村建設的工程。

附加的多媒體:
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Monday, 26 March 2007

2007年我在南京…

隶属江苏省的主要城市都相当富裕。
这里的flash短片呈现的是2007年3月作者在南京捕捉的南京面貌,
大家可以看到绝新绝美的图书馆…

附加的多媒体:
{rokbox size=|544 384|thumb=|images/slideshow_cn.jpg|}media/articles/Nanjing07.swf{/rokbox}

Monday, 26 March 2007

2007年我在南京…

隸屬江蘇省的主要城市都相當富裕。
這裡的flash短片呈現的是2007年3月作者在南京捕捉的南京面貌,
大家可以看到絕新絕美的圖書館…

附加的多媒體:
{rokbox size=|544 384|thumb=|images/slideshow_tw.jpg|}media/articles/Nanjing07.swf{/rokbox}

Monday, 26 March 2007

成都的今日容颜

位于老成都市、靠近成都书画院不远处,有条街名为宽巷子。这里的居民已在此定居好几世代了,如今宽巷子却面临被拆除的命运,理由则是为了建造一条乾净整洁且是观光客所期待的「新」老街,一如中国许多城市发展规划出的「文化街」。
二○○六年十二月,二○○七年三月,笨笃来到此地,正是老街进行拆除之际。透过摄影,已为中国各地许许多多发生类似情事的地方,留下弥足珍贵的见证。

附加的多媒体:
{rokbox size=|544 384|thumb=|images/slideshow_cn.jpg|}media/articles/ChengduontheMove.swf{/rokbox}

Monday, 26 March 2007

成都的今日容顏

位於老成都市、靠近成都書畫院不遠處,有條街名為寬巷子。這裡的居民已在此定居好幾世代了,如今寬巷子卻面臨被拆除的命運,理由則是為了建造一條乾淨整潔且是觀光客所期待的「新」老街,一如中國許多城市發展規劃出的「文化街」。
二○○六年十二月,二○○七年三月,笨篤來到此地,正是老街進行拆除之際。透過攝影,已為中國各地許許多多發生類似情事的地方,留下彌足珍貴的見證。

附加的多媒體:
{rokbox size=|544 384|thumb=|images/slideshow_tw.jpg|}media/articles/ChengduontheMove.swf{/rokbox}

Monday, 26 March 2007

New Socialist Villages in Sichuan

The construction of a "new socialist countryside" is part of the strive towards a "harmonious society", balancing the interests of cities and countryside. The large-scale program includes construction of new houses partly subsidized by the State, grouping of houses (often on a one street village model), community service centers (health care and administrative facilities, and creation of new economic opportunities, especially through basic tourism outlets destined to attract nearby urban dwellers.
The program is very active around Chengdu city. This selection of pictures, taken from December 2006 to March 2007 in three different places, 25km to 60km of Chengdu, documents some aspects of the process, from construction to completion.

Attached media :
{rokbox size=|544 384|thumb=|images/slideshow_en.jpg|}media/articles/Sichuan_Benoit.swf{/rokbox}

Monday, 26 March 2007

Chengdu on the move

A few pictures of Chengdu, taken in December 2006 and March 2007. The selection also documents the destruction/renovation of Kuanxiangzi, a well-known street of old Chengdu, destined to become another "cultural street" in a movie-like old China fashion.

Attached media :
{rokbox size=|544 384|thumb=|images/slideshow_en.jpg|}media/articles/ChengduontheMove.swf{/rokbox}

Thursday, 22 February 2007

Chinese Intellectuals on Social Security Reform and Buddhism

Are Chinese experts paying attention to the potential contribution of religious organizations to social policy? What are the views of the intellectuals who pay attention to that issue? This short research note briefly examines Chinese intellectuals’ thinking on these issues. It focuses on the Buddhist religious tradition of its long presence in China, its tradition as a provider of social assistance, and its generally positive reception by both officials and intellectuals.

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Download Laliberté’s article in pdf

Attached media :
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Thursday, 11 January 2007

The challenge of “Chinese values” for global ethics

Is a Gadamerian “fusion of horizons” possible between Western and Chinese ethics, so that the constitution of global ethics does not merely represent Western cultural imperialism? Or is it an impossible project because of irreconcilable differences between the “West” and “China”? This paper questions the false dichotomy implied in this debate and looks at ethical traditions as historical processes of discursive formation shaped by social and political factors. To illustrate this point, the paper will first look into the variety of approaches to global ethics deployed by different sections of contemporary Chinese society. The paper then argues that a more inclusive definition of “Chinese values” that is not limited to Confucianism and includes the ethics of the other spiritual traditions of China not only makes sense of the diversity observed in that country, but also strengthens the case about the necessity for a democracy that strengthen social welfare.
Read entire article in PDF

Attached media :
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Thursday, 14 December 2006

Encounter at Shanghai International University

On December 5, 2006, I was invited to give a talk for around 100 students of Shanghai University. The discussion that followed continued late in the evening. The occasion was the exhibit that these students had organized all by themselves on the Yangjuan primary school (One of their classmates, He Yanni, had served in the school for two summers.) The exhibit was not concentrating on the harshness of mountain environment and living conditions, it was rather a hymn to the creative power of the children and a tribute to cultural exchange between people coming from different horizons, people who learn to become friends and cherish this hard won friendship. The students had worked tirelessly for giving a soul to the big university hall where the exhibit was taking place, beautifying it through the paintings of the Yangjuan children, a set of black and white photographs and a huge glass window made from one of the children’s artworks.

The talk I gave afterwards had to oscillate between different directions, so diverse were the questions raised during the preparation: how did I discover Liangshan prefecture and Yangjuan village, how did I become immersed in Chinese and then in Yi culture, what makes Yi culture so special, how could students participate in such projects? I chose to share stories, big tales, and small dramas, trying to recapture the collective mood during a healing ritual, the tempo of the school’s construction and the obstacles that were surging on the way, the hopes and fears of the youth bow trying to find a job in the city, the feelings of the volunteers discovering a world that was not theirs…

Questions, as is now often the case in Chinese universities, were numerous and on the point. They were emblematic of a generation who wants to see with its own eyes, make its own experience, and make use of the means now at its disposal (computers, knowledge of foreign languages, accrued financial capability, contacts) for creating something that bears their mark. How can NGOs work develop in the peculiar context of Chinas? What is to be preserved of minorities’ cultures and how to discern with them on the changes that are truly necessary? How can foreign and Chinese students work together and how to enhance the specific contribution that China can make to the region and to the world? Is it truly possible to go beyond one’s cultural viewpoint and to enter into another people’s worldview and experience? These were some of the issues that we discussed together that evening.

This was for me a living illustration of a phenomenon for which Newsweek has coined the term “the We” generation” – Lee Li-chun discusses the issue elsewhere in this website. It is not true that Chinese youth focuses only on money and individual achievement. On the contrary, the rise of collective issues is conspicuous and truly impressive. Social fairness and the environment are prominent on the list. The surge of such a spirit is something we we all need to encourage and foster. In any case, let us be confident that Chinese youth is ready to take in charge the destiny of its country with much more determination, sense of collective responsibility and concern for global challenges that most of us dared to foresee not so long ago.
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Attached media :
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