Twenty-year-old Wang Huahua spots a high-waisted chiffon frock witha ruffled collar. She pairs it with black leggings and a chic bun on her head. Like any other girl her age, Wang likes dressing up andwindow-shopping. Hail from Xianxian County, Cangzhou in Hebei province, Wang arrivedin Beijing four years ago after finishing middle school and workedas a waitress in a small restaurant in the capital. |
Though work is tiring, she still prefers city life. Whenever she gets an off day, she goes window-shopping with friendsor surfs online for the latest fashion trends. "I run out of money every month, and can't save a single penny,"she says. Her 1,500-yuan (S$301) monthly income is spent almostentirely on clothes and make-up. Though her parents are pressing her to go home and get married,Wang is reluctant to leave Beijing, where she enjoys an independenturban lifestyle.
"They've lived in the village for too long and they are tootraditional. They want to have a say in their children's life. ButI'm still young, I don't want to live like them. I want the freedomof choosing my own life and to explore new possibilities," shesays.
Wang is among 100 million young migrant workers in China born afterthe 1980s, the landmark decade when China's economy started to takeoff. They are very different from their parents, the old generation ofmigrant workers who came to eke out a living and sent every pennyhome. These children, often called new generation migrant workers, nowaccount for about 60 per cent of the country's labor force fromoutside the cities. They are considered more fortunate and they have bigger ambitions.
They also want larger pay packages and better working conditions. In return, they are also more willing to spend. "They have their own consumer attitudes, like other young people inurban areas. They are less likely to save their wages for thefamily back in the hometowns," says Jin Lu, a market and consumerresearcher in Shanghai.
"Life in the rural areas has improved a lot compared to before.Parents don't live in poverty and don't need contributions fromtheir children who are working in the cities. This also means thatthe new generation migrant workers can spend more on themselves,"he says. They are a huge potential market for entrepreneurs. Already, some businesses are zooming in on these young consumers. For example, Maimaibao, an information technology company foundedin 2006 and based in Wuxi, Jiangsu province, offers a shoppingplatform for migrants and residents from third- and fourth-tiercities.
Customers can shop online using their mobile phones, through anonline application. "This is a special group with unique consumer characteristics.Pressured by working conditions and income, migrant workers areless likely to go downtown or to large shopping centers. "Meanwhile, their mobile phones have become their mainentertainment outlet," says Liu Hongfei, deputy general manager ofMaimaibao.
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