Millions of Chinese have returned home, or are still trying to get there on time. Author Zhang Lijia feels guilty she did not make it to Nanjing this year, yet again, she tells on her website. But she is happy for those who did.
Some got lucky. In Shanghai, quite a few large factories hired coaches to drive people home and drop them. Thanks to labour shortage in Shanghai and also coastal areas such as Shenzhen, factories have tried harder than ever in accommodating and helping the workers in the hope of retaining them. Some factories offer them iphones or other bonus to allure the workers back.
The migrant workers live separate lives from the urban population. The Spring Festival is the time the city people realize the importance of their poor rural cousins. In my neighborhood – where many migrant labours congregate – is rather quiet right now. A lot of breakfast stalls disappeared, restaurant, shops and news stands closed. No one came to deliver the milk or water; and no one collected rubbish. Many domestic helpers have also gone home, leaving many families struggle with their daily grinding. Migrant workers have effectively taken over the service industries in the city. They are the unsung heroes of our society.
My helper Xiao Yu has also gone her home in Sichuan, by taking the train for 29 hours without a seat. I’ve told her to take her time as I’d like her to spend decent time with her family.
I watched the news and felt guilty. Ever since I left home in the end of 1990, I have only gone back four times for the Spring Festival. I find the overwhelming crowds off-putting: anywhere you go, it is infested by thongs of people. And my family has never pressured me. If I bothered to try, it wouldn’t be too hard – wouldn’t be hard as Xiao Yu’s 29 hour seatless train. I’ve called home and promised to be there next year.
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