The official end of quarantine for Hubei province on Wednesday March 25 sounded like a release from prison. Hundreds of thousands of migrant workers from the province have taken buses, minibuses and trains to all parts of China. Trapped in the confines of the province at the beginning of February, in the middle of the Lunar New Year holiday, these migrants were stranded in their village or their hometown without the possibility of returning to their place of work. With the lifting of travel restrictions, for those with the “green code” of good health, it has been a real rush for exit that has occurred everyone seeking to curb a difficult financial situation.
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In Huanggang, a city of 7 million inhabitants among the most affected by the epidemic, a few kilometers from the capital Wuhan (in quarantine until April 8), workers in charge of luggage were waiting to be able to board the buses leaving the province, according to images released by the New China agency. One of them told the official news agency that he was returning to Wenzhou, a wealthy coastal city in eastern Zhejiang province. “I’ve been stuck at home here in Hubei for two months”, did he declare.
New generation of migrants buy apartments where they work
The province, which has more than 60 million inhabitants, has been by far the hardest hit by the epidemic which has killed nearly 3,300 people in China, out of more than 80,000 cases of contamination.
It is estimated that nearly 10 million people from Hubei work in the thousands of factories in the coastal regions. ” If we cannot go back to our factories in early April, I will try to get out illegally ” testified ten days ago Cao Xie, from the village of Caodian, in a daily newspaper in Hong Kong. He is a driver in the industrial city of Dongguan in the province of Guangdong, neighboring Hong Kong, where thousands of factories have resumed their activities. “But only 50 or 60% due to lack of manpower” said the wife of a high-ranking city official.
Unlike the first migrant workers of the 1990s who went to cities to work, save and then build a house in their hometown, the new generation settles in the cities where they have their jobs. They want to buy an apartment on site so as not to live in a dormitory in their factory and are going into heavy debt. The 280 million migrants in China today will return home during the New Year for two to three weeks and spend the rest of the year in the city of their jobs.
Loss of income
For migrants from Hubei, the loss of income during the two months of quarantine weighs heavily on their finances because they have to continue to pay the repayments of their home loans. It is impossible to accurately estimate the amount of these lost wages across the country, but some economists estimate it at nearly 100 billion euros.
Thus, for the villagers of Nanzhang in Hubei, this lifting of the quarantine is timely. On their Wechat group which brings together the 400 inhabitants, one could read that the young people were stamping to go back to their factories. A matter of life and death because: “All the pigs, ducks and chickens in the village were eaten. “