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Ant Group's New Year wishes: higher income and respect from others

2010-02-24 15:11 BJT

As the 2010 Spring Festival holiday comes to a close, Beijing's railway departments ushered in the peak period for people returning to the city. Like 24-year-old Zhu Yifeng, numerous people of the "ant group" boarded the train for Beijing, with a dream of changing their life.

In this big city, they are called the "ant group" and live a poor life, but have dreams in their hearts. Zhu said, "My biggest wish in 2010 is to earn more money and be understood and respected by others." He believes that success for him is not far away.

Zhu's hometown is located in Yongjing County of Gansu Province, and is a state-level poor area. Every time he returns, it will cost him at least a day and a night to get there. On the 27th day of the twelfth lunar month in 2009, Zhu quit his marketing job, which he did not find satisfying, and returned to his hometown with no plan to return. The neighbors in his village all knew that he had attended a university in Beijing so he wants to buy his parents a washing machine to prove that he has had some measure of success.
Zhu, who graduated from a 3rd rate university in Beijing, has not been able to find a good job, unlike his classmates who have powerful personal connections. After much difficulty, he finally found a marketing job, earning a monthly salary of 1,800 yuan. With rent and expenses for meals and transportation paid, he has nothing left to spare. Having no other choice, he has to live in the junction between the city and the countryside.

According to the traditional ways of the village, the Spring Festival does not come to a close before the Lantern Festival. Zhu, however, packed his bags and returned to Beijing ahead of schedule, hoping to find a suitable job as soon as possible. He hopes that his parents will still be proud of him.

In large cities, such as Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, there are numerous people who are members of what is called the "ant group," who, like Zhu, are mostly from undeveloped areas and among whom, 54.7 percent are from the villages and 20.7 percent are from counties. They are the genuine "Second-Generation Poor." They were admitted to the universities by their hard work and bear the high expectations of their families. They studied harder in universities than those with a rich background. Therefore, when they witnessed that their classmates who are among the "Second-Generation Rich" and "Second-Generation Privileged" get good jobs easily and bought houses and cars after graduation while they still live in suburban districts after they fled away from the villages and have trouble finding a job, their feelings are quite different from that of the other groups regarding the gap between the rich and poor as well as social injustices.

Some have advised Zhu to go to the second or third-tier cities to try to find his fortune, after all, the competition there is not so fierce. But Zhu told reporters with smile that he himself comes from the village so he knows how wide the gap is between the city and countryside. The benefits of a large city are unattainable for other small cities, whether it is about employment prospects or the political environment, or even the chances of receiving further education. Although the life is hard and tiring, he still has a chance to become successful and to change his destiny.

Ding Ningning, economist and minister of the Development Department of Development Research Center of the State Council, said the emergence of the "ant group" is a natural representation of China's urbanization and the popularization of higher education. In some ways it is inevitable. The university graduates' long-term low income reflects the problem of the quality of employment hidden behind the colleges and universities' one-sided pursuit of a "high rate of employment." In addition, some changes happened to China's employment policies and university students' view on the subject, as well as the increased enrollment at colleges and universities, has also led to the emergence of the "ant group," such as the number of the university graduates far surpasses the big cities' demand for the high level talents, and that the academic system is not synchronized with the development of the economy.

Lian Si, a research scholar who works on the "ant group" and an associate professor at the University of International Business and Economics, said everyone has the right to stay in large cities so only how to integrate the "ant group" into the city is the problem that we should consider and resolve. China needs a great number of talents because of its urbanization and the "ant group" dedicates their talent and youth to the city's development. Whether the big cities welcome them or not, they cannot develop without the "ant group," and they have no way to close the door on them or simply send them back to the villages or the counties.

Lian Si said, due to the influence of the international financial crisis over the past two years, the pay at many companies is unfavorable, but there is still not a strong response from the "ant group" or a wide desire to return back to their hometowns. They are still willing to be among the "ant group." It is sure that not only those university graduates are in the group but also many of 6 million university students who are about to complete their studies in this year will also join in the "ant group." Therefore, the active solution is to help them integrate into the city and become a new group of urban people. Based on this, what we should do is to study how to resolve the problem and what policies we should use. All of these things are problems and they are difficulties that the government's policymakers will work to overcome.

Editor: Shi Taoyang | Source: