News / Asia

Chinese Graduates Grow Restless in Beijing's Low-Cost 'Ant Colony'

On the outskirts of China's capital Beijing is a bustling ghetto dubbed the ant colony - a vast community of young professionals forced to live in tough conditions because of a tight job market and rocketing property prices.

Hugging a heater for warmth, 23-year-old Fu Ming surveys the small cell-like room she calls home. She admits it is not quite the life she envisaged after graduating from university as a computer programmer.

She is one of around 50,000 living in Beijing's so-called ant colony - a community of young, educated professionals forced to live in cramped but cheap conditions on the fringes of a suburb called Tangjialing.

Fu Ming, from Inner Mongolia, moved to Beijing in search of a career two years ago. But success has been hard to find. She makes the long commute to a low-paid job - the average wage for a university graduate is around $320 a month - from the shanty town because rents in the city are too expensive.

She says she gets up at 5.30 a.m. and gets to the office via the bus and subway, and she gets home around 9 p.m. Fu says she can not afford to move nearer to work, and that she would like to buy a house.

Fu's room only has one window, which looks onto the dark narrow corridor. The rooms have no running water or air conditioning, but they do have heat and a hot plate for cooking. Laundry is strong along the walls.

Passers-by peer in, adding to the prison atmosphere. But she says she is lucky because she can afford the 300 rmb rent. As many as four tenants are crammed into some rooms.

There is Internet access for those who can afford it, but a television is a luxury Fu cannot afford. She writes a blog about her life in the ghetto and e-mails friends and family detailing her disappointment and "empty feelings".

Tangjialing has become an example of the paradox of China's fast-paced economy.

After expanding universities in the 1980's, China now has more than six million graduates a year, but there are not enough well-paid jobs to go round.

Considered over qualified in their hometowns, the graduates flock to the big cities like Beijing and Shanghai - only to discover they must share bunk beds and rent Spartan rooms to survive. Their dreams of the urban middle-class lifestyle are put on hold.

Just over two years ago, Tangjialing ago was a rural village of 3.000.  But the farmers cashed in on the need for affordable housing and hastily built two and three story dormitories, often illegally. Few of the complexes have fire escapes and other safety measures.

But Fu's home and those of her peers are under threat.

Concerned about the bad image of young university graduates living in slums and the resentment it could foster, the authorities plan to demolish Tiangjialing. They say the area needs to be rebuilt and promise low cost, modern housing for the ant tribe.

The issue has been deemed politically sensitive, however, and officials are reluctant to talk. But many of the "ants" are growing restless. They agree the place is a slum. But as migrant workers, they do not posses the important Beijing hukou registration papers that entitle them to subsidized housing.

Every Chinese is entitled to social security - but only in their home cities, towns and villages.

Computer engineer Zhou Hung is from Hunan and he says life is hard in Beijing without a hukou. Many fellow workers are priced out of the city. He says that he arrived last March with a group of about 30, but now only five or six of them are still here. The rest all left. He says work is hard to find and their expenses are rather high yet the wages are low.

He says if they demolish his home, he will return to his hometown, even though he has no prospects there.

He says he feels hopeless but he thinks the wrecking ball will anger the locals. He says he does not think the government can enforce demolition on the landlords. The landlords will protest because they earn a living.

But it is not all doom and gloom.

There is a good community spirit up and down the corridors. Many residents extend their university life by sharing a room with classmates.

House hunters and university friends Li Yu, Wang Xin and Wnag Yuan, from Shanxi province, are optimistic.

Wang says the buildings are OK and the security is good. If the price is reasonable she will try to live here for a long time. Her work is quite nearby.

Back in her room, Fu Ming says she will try to stay another year to see if her prospects improve. She props a piece of cardboard to block out stares from passersby and says she will make some pretty curtains when she gets the time.

You May Like

Uganda Court Annuls Anti-Gay Law

Court says law was passed in parliament without enough members present for a full quorum More

Multimedia Thailand Makes Efforts to Improve Conditions for Migrant Laborers

In Thailand, its not uncommon for parents to bring their children to work; one company, in-collaboration with other organizations, address safety concerns More

In Indonesia, Jihad Video Raises Concern

Video calls on Indonesians to join Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, ISIL More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
In Thailand, Some Efforts to Improve Conditions For Migrant Laborersi
X
Steve Herman
August 01, 2014 6:22 PM
Thailand has been facing increasing international scrutiny as a hub of human trafficking and slave labor. Some of the kingdom’s companies are striving to improve working conditions, especially for the millions of migrant laborers from surrounding countries. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok takes a look at one initiative for children at construction sites
Video

Video In Thailand, Some Efforts to Improve Conditions For Migrant Laborers

Thailand has been facing increasing international scrutiny as a hub of human trafficking and slave labor. Some of the kingdom’s companies are striving to improve working conditions, especially for the millions of migrant laborers from surrounding countries. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok takes a look at one initiative for children at construction sites
Video

Video Public Raises its Voice on Power Plant Pollution

In the United States, proposed rules to cut pollution from the nation’s 600 coal-fired power plants are generating a heated debate. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, charged with writing and implementing the plan, has already received 300,000 written comments. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, another 1,600 people are lining up this week at EPA headquarters and at satellite offices around the country to give their testimony in person.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video China Investigates Powerful Former Security Chief

The public in China is welcoming the Communist Party's decision to investigate one of the country's once most powerful politicians, former domestic security chief Zhou Yongkang. Analysts say the move by President Xi Jinping is not only an effort to win more support for the party, but an essential step to furthering much needed economic reforms and removing those who would stand in the way of change. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.

AppleAndroid