The Chinese New Year holiday is coming to an end, and so is this blog’s reticence on a range of issues. We should be back to full-strength – or pretty close – early next week. For now, one quick Chinese New Year item that I meant to post before the holiday, and forgot. Here’s the deal: back in January, World Expo 2010 organizers told Shanghai Daily that nearly 20% of the more than 100 pavilions to be built for the massive event would not be ready for the opening on May 1. Part of the problem – and it was a big one – was that much of the migrant labor force required to build the 2.5 mile fair-ground and its pavilions was planning to take two weeks off to enjoy the New Year holiday. Below, some of those laborers enjoying a break outside of the terrific Dutch pavilion.
Anyway, a few days before the Shanghai Daily story ran, I happened to be at the Expo site, visiting one of the incomplete national pavilions (to be clear: not the Dutch pavilion). While there, someone associated with the structure told me that – out of fear of losing the structure’s two-hundred man labor force – New Year bonuses were being offered. According to this person, the regular daily wage at this particular pavilion (can’t speak for the others) was/is RMB 200, or roughly US$29.00/day. That’s one hell of a good wage for a Chinese construction worker, but – apparently – not nearly enough to keep a migrant worker with leverage – in this case, incomplete Expo 2010 pavilions – in his back pocket. And so, according to the national pavilion official with whom I spoke, cagey/homesick migrant laborers rejected offers of RMB 400 (US$58), RMB 600 (US$87), and RMB 1000 (US$145) per day to work during the two-week Chinese New Year. Those are serious wages for white collars in Shanghai, much less a migrant construction workers, and I hereby offer my sincere respect to whomever was responsible for the migrant side of that negotiation. Alas, I didn’t manage to follow-up on what the ultimate outcome/wage was, but – with labor rates like that – I suspect that more than a few migrants called home to ask that the fireworks be lit without them.
Year of the Tiger blogging, coming next week.