Migrant workers looking for work in Wuhan

The Aging Migrant Workers Who Can’t Afford to Retire

With a growing urban-rural gap and lack of social security, China’s first-generation migrant workers are heading back to the workplace

To fool recruiters at Beijing’s Liuliqiao day labor market, 60-year-old Zhao Hua has dyed her gray hair black. On a Tuesday morning in March, Zhao has arrived, as she has every day in the last month, hoping to get a temporary gig on a construction site, event crew, or any other odd job opportunity despite being well past legal retirement age.

When TWOC meets Zhao shortly after 1 p.m., though, she has just been denied an elevator operator job by a recruiter who was diligent enough to check her age, despite the hair dye. “They told me they didn’t want anyone over 50, let alone 60,” she complains. She has been forced to try her luck at Liuliqiao because the regular jobs she used to hold, such as cleaning, also won’t hire seniors like her. “It’s not like I’m not competent enough to do the [elevator] job. I can climb stairs [like they asked for], but they just don’t want anyone over 55.”

“I’ve still got it in me, so why won’t they give me anything?” she asks.

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author Yang Tingting (杨婷婷)

Yang Tingting is a Chinese editor at The World of Chinese. Interested in telling Chinese stories, she writes mainly about culture, language, and society.

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