Many Hands Make…

Hard Work.  It is fairly common in China to happen across a small army of people employed in very tedious and/or physically difficult work.  Often times, there is a disproportionate number of older people in this group.

At Tsinghua University, all landscaping and lawns are weeded by hand.

While in the US and many other western nations, these tasks have usually been automated, China still uses raw man (and woman) power.  One of the most significant reasons is that these job opportunities are important for many people without other skills.  Migrant workers in large cities can be especially eager to find this type of employment, as their options are limited.

On my first trip to China, workers were hauling ice for the annual ice festival in Harbin.

Often times snow goes unshoveled in China. But when it gets shoveled it's almost always done by hand. Photo from Gulf News.

During our last trip to Xiaogan, we saw a regiment of workers stringing a power line through marshes and field by hand.  Hey, more power to them.

On our last trip to Xiaogan, we saw workers stringing a power line through marshes and fields by hand. Hey, more power to them.

It will be interesting to see how these types of labor practices will be impacted as the country continues to develop over the next half century.  Will an increasingly educated population see too much opportunity cost in this type of manual and menial labor?  Or will there always be enough of the country’s 1.1 billion (and counting) people eager to fill these jobs?  It depends on a lot of factors, and only time will tell…

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One comment

  1. I like it! Put them all to work. It’s much better than our system of paying people to sit at home and watch cable tv. I’d venture a guess that none of those people would say those jobs are “beneath their dignity”. I’m appreciating China more with each blog post!

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