Factory Girls

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 02 May, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 02 May, 2010, 12:00am

Factory Girls
by Leslie Chang
Pan, HK$117

Leslie Chang focused on Min and Chunming to weave her absorbing narrative about migrant workers in southern China. Although the stories are intimate accounts of the lives of the pair - the author spent two years following them - they are typical of the many young women who have chuqu (gone out and, in many cases, stayed out). In Factory Girls, which has been 'updated post-financial crisis', Chang writes that manufacturing centres such as Dongguan have seen factories idled and workers laid off. But though foreigners may assume unemployed migrants will turn to protest if things don't pan out, she says, 'In reality they react to economic downturns the way they respond to everything else: by being resourceful and pragmatic and making do with little.' Many workers have left their villages again, having returned during the downturn, like Min, who has taken a 15 per cent pay cut but signed a two-year contract, and Chunming, who has had four jobs since the end of the book, hoping to find happiness in good work and a husband. Millions of Chinese would rather try their luck in the city, however lonely it can be, Chang writes, than remain subsistence farmers.