Guangdong cities become ghost towns during Spring Festival
Central, East regions fall behind in logistics advantages: expert
Published: Feb 03, 2017 12:03 AM
Passengers wait to enter the train station in Handan, Hebei Province on Thursday as the weeklong Spring Festival holidays wrap up. Photo: IC

Passengers wait to enter the train station in Handan, Hebei Province on Thursday as the weeklong Spring Festival holidays wrap up. Photo: IC

China's major manufacturing hub Dongguan, home to facilities for renowned brands such as Samsung and DuPont, was rated China's top ghost town during the Spring Festival.

Some 70 percent of its population, migrant workers from all over China who work assiduously for a year in the city's factories, left for their annual family reunion.   

According to a report by Internet security company Qihoo 360, which collected data from its 900 million users, Dongguan was followed by Foshan, Guangzhou and Shenzhen on the list of China's top 10 Spring Festival ghost towns. All four cities are located in South China's Guangdong Province. The report said more than 60 percent of these cities' regular populations temporarily left for the festival. 

Hu Xingdou, a professor at the Beijing Institute of Technology, told the Global Times on Thursday that the high percentage of migrant workers in Guangdong demonstrates that it is still the beating heart of China's manufacturing industry, despite suffering significant losses since the 2008 financial crisis.

"Guangdong has a complete industrial chain, and this attracts many companies and migrant workers," Hu said.

He said Dongguan coming top of the list shows that China's small- and medium-sized cities are full of energy. 

The report found that 56.7 percent of people working in Shanghai and 52 percent in Beijing also left before the festival.

Topping the list of those who left to seek their fortune in coastal developed areas in 2016 were people from East China's Jiangxi Province, followed by those from Central China's Hunan and Henan provinces. Some 3.3 million left from Jiangxi, the report said, making up 7.5 percent of the province's 45.7 million population.

Sun Lijian, a senior finance researcher with Fudan University, told the Global Times that because Guangdong opened-up earlier and to a larger degree than Beijing and Shanghai, this accounts for the higher numbers of workers returning home from the area.

Although central and eastern areas have tried to attract companies by providing government subsidies and setting up preferential policies in, for example, land purchase, they have fallen behind coastal areas in logistics advantages.

"Migrant workers will help ease the regional development imbalance when they invest earnings in developing their hometowns," Sun said.

Sun noted that obstacles, including the household registration system (hukou) and social welfare shortages in cities, should be removed to encourage labor migration.

Hu agreed, adding that training and investment should be provided by companies and governments to upgrade the skills of workers to ensure their competitiveness during China's industrial reform.

"Instability is a major problem of the current labor-concentrated industries," Hu said.

He pointed out that more and more rural residents are choosing to stay and work near their hometowns due to the development of the local economy and the social welfare system in rural areas, which causes labor shortages and will lead to wage inflation in developed areas.     

Return peak

The first return peak after the weeklong Spring Festival holiday was estimated to last from Wednesday to Saturday, the Beijing Morning News reported Thursday.

The Beijing Railway Bureau Wednesday put on 59 special trains to deal with the first return peak, according to the news report.

About 11.5 million passenger trips were estimated to be made on Thursday, an increase of 11.3 percent than in 2016, news portal reported.

Migrant workers and college students make up most of the passengers, the report said.

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