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Returned migrant workers thrive at home with e-commerce live-streaming


Xinhua
22 Nov 2022

© Provided by Xinhua

TAIYUAN, Nov. 22 (Xinhua) -- All Zhang Jinbao needs for his work is a basket of millet, a set of lights and ... a smartphone.

Zhang, 39, is a live-streamer who promotes products online for his own agricultural company in Linxian County, north China's Shanxi Province.

As a former migrant worker, the rural entrepreneur previously worked at an internet cafe, a transport company and even a kindergarten in big cities like Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.

After years of trying to make it in cities, he returned to his hometown of Linxian in 2017 and launched a new life there.

"The rural life is slow-paced, and the environment is pleasant. Starting a business here can bring my fellow villagers a better life. So I came back," said Zhang.

Since the 1980s, Chinese rural workers have been leaving their villages behind for new lives in the cities. In 2021, the number of migrant workers in the country reached 292.51 million. This migration helped develop the big cities, which in turn supported China's miracle of economic growth.

However, amid China's efforts to boost rural revitalization alongside better infrastructure and higher living standards in villages, many migrant workers like Zhang have now returned to their rural hometowns and started their own businesses.

New businesses like e-commerce live-streaming are contributing to the reversal of the move to the big cities. In the first half of 2022, over 60 million live-streaming promotions were held on e-commerce platforms closely tracked by the Ministry of Commerce. These live-streaming promotions, covering more than 47.5 million products, attracted over 517 billion online visits.

Homesickness, together with the great potential of e-commerce in rural areas, are among the main reasons that migrant workers have left the cities and returned to their villages, said Xing Yuan, a sociology professor at Shanxi University.

Linxian County produces high-quality millet thanks to the high altitude and the sharp temperature difference between day and night. Through the new e-commerce business model, Zhang's company helps more than 600 rural households sell millet, with each family earning an extra yearly income of over 10,000 yuan (1,396 U.S. dollars).

Over the past decade, some 11.2 million people have returned to China's rural areas to set up their own businesses, with each entity creating six to seven stable jobs on average, according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs.

Lots of them were returned migrant workers, and many entrepreneurial projects focused on using live-streaming and other online methods to sell products.

Various places have rolled out policies to support the start-ups launched by returned migrants. In southwest China's Chongqing Municipality, an e-commerce business park was established in Youyang Tujia and Miao Autonomous County in 2020, offering all-around services from warehousing and logistics to live-streaming promotion training for rural entrepreneurs.

The park has provided more than 300 local jobs, cultivated over 80 online companies and stores, and sold agricultural and specialty products worth more than 50 million yuan each year, said Shi Zhengwei, a 37-year-old entrepreneur who returned to Youyang after graduating from Chongqing Three Gorges University.

In 2021, Shi started selling local specialties including chili products and noodles on popular short-video platforms like Douyin. His company saw sales grow at an annual rate of 30 percent, and the number of employees has risen to over 100 from 40-plus in 2018.

"With broader horizons, richer knowledge and an aspiration to change their hometowns for the better, the returned migrants launched a new career in the countryside, which can increase local employment, bridge the urban-rural divide, and boost the rural revitalization," said Xing.

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