News / Asia

    Millions of Chinese Migrant Workers Head Home for New Year

    A man, center, sits on his belonging as he waits with other Chinese traveler to board a at the south train station in Beijing, Jan. 31, 2016.
    A man, center, sits on his belonging as he waits with other Chinese traveler to board a at the south train station in Beijing, Jan. 31, 2016.
    Shannon Van Sant

    Every year tens of millions of Chinese migrant workers head home for the new year holiday. It is the largest annual mass migration of people, with travelers clogging China's airports and train stations.

    Next week begins the year of the monkey in China, with millions of people traveling to spend time with their families and celebrate the new year with grand fireworks celebrations. China’s huge population of migrant workers have already begun their journeys to home villages in the countryside.

    Wang Xi, who will soon board a very crowded train to see his family, says he misses his parents and knows they have a much harder life back home than he does in Beijing.

    Passengers run to board a train at the Beijing Railway Station in Beijing, Jan. 30, 2016.
    Passengers run to board a train at the Beijing Railway Station in Beijing, Jan. 30, 2016.

    Tourism spike

    Chinese authorities estimate that nearly three billion trips will be made domestically over the New Year holiday. That marks a 3.6 percent rise in domestic travel over last year’s festivities. Six million will travel abroad this week, part of a broader trend of rising numbers of Chinese spending their vacation overseas.

    Outbound tourism from China was up 12.1 percent in 2015.

    Anxin Fang, 57, bought tickets home to Shanxi Province at the last minute, and was surprised to get a seat so late, noting that last year she tried much earlier and was only able to get on standby.

    The huge number of travelers has resulted in a surge in gas consumption, with gasoline demand over the holiday increasing 242,000 barrels a day above the annual daily average. Forty-two million plane flights and 258 million one-way train journeys will be taken over the next week.

    Passengers use their smartphones as they sit in a waiting room at the Beijing Railway Station in Beijing, Jan. 30, 2016.
    Passengers use their smartphones as they sit in a waiting room at the Beijing Railway Station in Beijing, Jan. 30, 2016.

    Massive delays

    The hectic travel season has caused massive delays, with bad weather stranding 100,000 people at the Guangzhou train station earlier this week. Authorities shut down several highways after bad weather caused nearly two mile traffic jam on an expressway connecting Jiangxi and Hubei provinces.

    Li Mei, 30, expects a smooth trip to her hometown.

    She says she is bringing gifts of clothing from Beijing for her family members back home.

    Once at home with their families, nearly 700 million people will tune into China’s state-broadcaster CCTV to watch this year’s Spring festival gala, a variety show.

    In a week’s time, millions will begin their journey back to the cities to begin work again.

    A woman with her luggage waits as Chinese passengers arrive at the Beijing railway station to catch trains in Beijing, Jan. 31, 2016.
    A woman with her luggage waits as Chinese passengers arrive at the Beijing railway station to catch trains in Beijing, Jan. 31, 2016.

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