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Blue Collar Boost


Text by Ni Junchen Photographs courtesy of Blue Collar’s Co-operatives

Soon after Spring Festival, China’s biggest annual holiday, many cities once again suffered a labor shortage as they have for several consecutive years. Greater numbers of scholars and journalists sounded alarms: When excess “subsistence” labor is fully absorbed into the modern sector, an era of labor shortage dawns - the “Lewis Turning Point” named for economist Arthur Lewis’ model.

He Zhongzhou, who holds a degree in Chinese language, would have little interest in such economic terms if not for his passion for public welfare. As a veteran journalist, He has heard many stories about rural laborers working in urban areas. This labor demographic has increased exponentially over the past few years, as more and more set off from rural areas with big dreams accented by fear. After many years working in media, He walked away in 2011 to prepare to launch a non-governmental organization, Blue Collar’s Co-operatives (BCC), aiming at helping workers in Dongguan, Guangdong Province, a hotbed for migrant workers.

He named his organization “Blue” after the color of the suit that the first group of migrant workers wore in the wake of China’s implementation of economic reform and opening-up policies, and such workers are classified as “blue collar” in English. As secretary-general, He hopes to provide migrants training, education, and employment, as well as negotiation help and support for protection of their rights.

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