February 2, 2008
Editor’s note: Alexandra Harney is a Hong Kong-based writer and the author of the forthcoming book “The China Price: The True Cost of Chinese Competitive Advantage” (Penguin Press, 2008).
HONG KONG, China (CNN) — In the crowds still stranded by snow at train stations around China stand some of the country’s most valuable economic assets: migrant workers.
A migrant worker, right, joins a queue waiting to board trains this past week in Shanghai, China.
This group of 150 million to 200 million farmers — more than the population of the United Kingdom, France and Australia combined — account for the majority of employees in China’s world-beating manufacturing sector, the bulk of its coal miners and most of its construction workers.
During the past two decades, according to a conservative estimate from UNESCO and the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, migrants have contributed 16 percent of gross domestic product growth.