Many schools in China are not open to the children of migrant labourers
More then 150 million Chinese workers have left the country's impoverished countryside to find work in the big cities. The abundance of low cost labour they provide helps to fuel China's booming economy. But what is in it for the migrants themselves?

People & Power gains a glimpse into lives of migrant workers living in China's richest city, Shanghai. Zhang Can Bing and Chen Xi Ming scrape together a living by collecting rubbish and selling what they can salvage. On some days they only earn 25 cents each.

Human rights groups say that migrant workers are frequently denied access to adequate healthcare and education facilities and often face exploitative working conditions.

Thousands of villages are left empty as more peasants move to the big cities to make money

Other migrants we speak to have successfully climbed the economic ladder. Wang Sugan has made the move from trash collecting to running a small recycling business. He says moving to the city has enabled him to achieve his goal - providing his children with a good education.

But families like Wang's are still in the minority – less then half of China's 20 million migrant children attend school.

People & Power asks whether migrant workers in China form part of an exploited underclass, or gain access to unparalleled opportunities when they make the move to the city. 

China Moving

The second part of the programme looks at life in the villages left behind by millions of Chinese migrants. Many are now populated by elderly people, children and wives whose husbands come home once a year, if they come home at all. 

Patrick Brown reports from a village in Sichuan Province which has lost 80 per cent of its working population.    

Watch Moving China here:

Watch China Moving here:

This episode of People & Power aired from Wednesday November 14, 2007.


To contact us click on 'Send your feedback' at the top of the page

Watch Al Jazeera English programmes on YouTube

Join our debates on the Your Views page