What Do Chinese Migrant Workers Do After They “Retire” Young

Here’s something we all know: China has a large population of migrant workers, who left their villages and traditional ways of life, adventured into eastern provinces, and became factory workers or waitresses. As a whole they are pretty young, as their jobs require. When they get a little older, like 32,   a lot of them are forced to “retire” from those jobs because even younger workers pour in.

So the question is: what do those former migrant workers do after they lose their jobs? They are actually still very young, in their early 30s. Their families have been depending on their city wages. It’s hard for them to settle in the city because they don’t have city “hukou” and they can’t find stable physical jobs anymore. If they go back to villages, there are no enough agriculture work for them. Plus they don’t want to go back.

I did some research and here’s what I found:  A lot of them became Taobao Sellers. Taobao(淘宝), meaning “Searching for treasure” in Chinese, is the dominant C2C site in China, with millions of virtual shops, owned by Alibaba. It seems that a lot of these retired workers did well on Taobao too. They don’t need to speak perfect mandarin or have good local connections(which are city folks’ competitive advantage in city jobs).  Taobao provided them a great way to keep what they have today and keep progressing. The benefit is they don’t need to stay in cities to do this. They can go back to a small town and be as good a seller as someone in a big city. And that’s the right direction of urbanization.


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