China’s ageing farm labourers cash in on annual winter melon harvest

Despite being in their 50s and 60s, hardy rural workers think nothing of hauling three tonnes of the vegetables per day

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 06 August, 2017, 7:25pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 06 August, 2017, 8:15pm

Rural labourers in southern China are making hay while the sun shines, taking home as much as 400 yuan (US$60) a day helping farmers get their winter melon harvests to market, local media reported.

The work is not for the faint-hearted, however, with the hired hands generally expected to haul more than three tonnes of the vegetables, also known as white gourds, from the fields to the waiting trucks if they want to take home the biggest pay packets, Guangzhou Daily reported on Sunday.

That wouldn’t be so remarkable if it wasn’t for the fact that the average age of the labourers is more than 50, with several of them well into their 60s, the report said.

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The harvest season in Yingde, a city in a mountainous region of Guangdong province where the vegetables are grown, is now well under way. The work might sound hard, but for the local pickers it’s no big deal.

“The winter melons usually weigh more than 10kg each and I can carry four at a time,” an unnamed labourer was quoted as saying. “It’s nothing for a person who’s used to farm work,” he said.

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Another villager said that people are paid six fen (one yuan equals 100 fen) for every 500g they carry.

“When the weather isn’t too hot, you can carry more than three tonnes a day,” he said, adding that it was good work for labourers who live in the mountains and would otherwise have nothing much to do.