Party paper sounds sombre note on Xi’s inaugural pledge

PUBLISHED : Friday, 16 November, 2012, 5:50pm
UPDATED : Friday, 16 November, 2012, 7:57pm

Barely one day after China’s new top leader Xi Jinping promised “better jobs, higher income” to an expectant nation in his inaugural speech, People’s Daily, the Communist Party mouthpiece, put his pledge in grim perspective with a rare, honest story about China’s young working poor.

“I haven’t eaten any meat in half a month,” read the headline of a heart-wrenching story in the paper’s overseas edition. The story has drawn thousands of comments on the internet.

The heroine of the story, Tong Lina, is a young migrant worker from Jiangxi Province who moved to Beijing five months ago, according to the paper. After months of job-hunting failure in the capital city, she is now eking out a living as a waitress in a restarant, making 1,100 yuan (US$176) per month. 

Tong, whom the paper identifed as part of "the post-1990 generation", putting her in her late teens or early twenties, lives with her equally struggling boyfriend in a rented apartment, and the two can barely afford to include meat in their daily diet.

To make ends meet, Tong also works part-time handing out advertising leaflets in the street, taking home another 300-400 yuan every month.

She said she fell sick once from overwork, which forced her to visit the hospital everyday for three days to receive IV-drip treatment and it set her back more than 500 yuan. Like Tong, millions of migrant workers making a living in urban areas don't have insurance coverage either because their employers refuse to contribute, or they are ineligible for schemes that favour local residents. 

“I don’t know how the state can help people like me to double our incomes. All I know is, right now, I can’t see a better future.” the paper quoted Tong as saying.