Thursday, 7 May 2009

Hail the 21st century heroes

In all of history, there have been periods when groups of people have changed the world. Sometimes the soldier, sometimes the priest, sometimes the king, sometimes the philosopher, sometimes the writer.

In my view, two heroes have changed the world at the dawn of the 21st century. Unheralded they are, but they have changed the world nevertheless. China's migrant worker and India's coder. Today it's a salute to China's migrant worker.

There are lots of them. Some 200 million or so. They have built the skyscrapers, the roads, the airports and all the wonderful infrastructure that you see in China today. They make all those products that you and I, anywhere in the world, have been able to afford. They mine the coal that supplies all the power to the factories that churn out the goods that we all buy. They are the ones, who have made China, what it is today.

They come from the interior of China. They come to the eastern coast where much of the economic activity happens. They leave behind their farms and their families. They come alone to the strange big city. They live in packed dormitories near their work place. Theirs is a tough life. They live alone. They work hard. They send the money to their families back home.

They work really hard. Work long hours. And they're all not men. In fact many factories prefer women. So the women too have come from a far off land. Its often usual that the husband and wife are both migrant workers living in cities thousands of kilometres apart. The child (China has a one child policy) is left back home in the village, often with the grandparents.

Once a year, at Chinese new year time, comes their moment. They all head home. All 200 million of them. Its the greatest annual migration of humans ever. It happens every year . For a week, they get back to their families. To their child. To their parents. To their spouse. The week passes by very quickly. And its time for the reverse migration to start another year of toil.

These are the real heroes of China. China's boom is largely because of them. Much of the world's economic prosperity is owed to them.

Hail China's migrant worker.


Hang said...

Excellent post! It has never been easy to work in big cities far away from family in the countryside. They need to work very hard and go through all the hardships. They are the true heros of China.

lideting482 said...

Ramesh,you are right. China's boom is owned to these migrant workers. They are a miracle and creating miralces. As a Chinese, I should pay my respect to this group. Sometimes, I really admire their courage and wisdom that they always can have ways to make a living in a place several thousands away from their home.

Ramesh said...

@Hang - Thanks for your comments. As an outsider, I marvel at the scale of this phenomenon

@lideting - Thanks for visiting. Yes, they are amazing people

Preeti Shenoy said...

Kudos to you for recognising the efforts of these silent heros. Fact is most of us see them but we hardly think about them.

And you cheated on my blog! Not allowed!! Why do you hide so much? What are you scared of? :P


Ramesh said...

Hi Preeti - thanks for dropping by.

He He. No I didn't cheat - Boo Hoo.

Adesh Sidhu said...

No wonder migrant workers have contributed to 16% of GDP in last two decades. They are rightly called as 'factories without smoke'.

aparna said...

wow.. this is a nice observation.. unsung heroes.. will wait for ur post on india's coder.. am sure that will be a good read too

le embrouille blogueur said...

Kudos. Thanks for sharing Ramesh.

Aashish said...

What a contrast in India. From the socialist heartland, the migrants come in search of work to India's bursting metropolises. A large percentage end up as taxi / auto drivers, security guards and of course bhaaji-walas (vegetable vendors). As there isn't any concept of low-cost housing or China-style dormitories, they set up domicile in the ubiquitous slums.

Thomas said...

Forgive my ignorance, but what's a "coder"? You mean IT programmers?

rads said...

Quite a contrast to what I've seen in US too. Here people want comforts, even the migrant workers. They want an easy 9 to 5 job and huge pay. First of all, they will never sacrifice their family and work somewhere else. No wonder the US prefers Indians and Chinese more in the IT sector, coz we are ready to work late hours and toil during weekends and that too for low pay. Great dedication to the hard-workers.

Ramesh said...

@ Aashish -Yes there are fewer (although they exist) slums in China, but that's also because land acquisition is easier here.

@Thomas - Yes. Today's post is on this hero

@rads -Yes, the first generation of people who are rising from relative poverty do this (even in the West it happened in the past). The issue for China and India is that the second generation may not. But for now, we can reap the benefits.

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