BEIJING (REUTERS) – When Shanghai began its Covid-19 lockdown two months ago, the French restaurant where Mr Sun Wu waited closed tables and the 22-year-old, like countless other rural migrants, lost his work.
To make ends meet, Mr Sun helped sort government deliveries for residents under lockdown, earning 250 yuan (51 Singapore dollars) a day and leaving a dorm to live in the warehouse where he worked as required Covid-19 rules.
Three weeks later, however, he had to leave the warehouse. His girlfriend, a migrant worker who worked at the reception of the same restaurant, needed urgent medical attention.
With ambulance services expanded, Mr Sun paid a delivery truck driver 500 yuan to take them to the hospital on April 25 and she underwent surgery to remove a cyst from her stomach that night- the.
He remained by her side until she was released on May 6. He bought her flowers and took her to his dorm.
But Mr. Sun had nowhere to go.
The warehouse couldn’t take him back due to strict Covid-19 rules and his dorm lacked space to isolate him if needed.
With rail services suspended, he could not return to Dali, his hometown 3,000 km away in southwestern Yunnan province.
“I felt like I had no more cards to play,” he said.
China’s Zero-Covid policies have taken a toll on the world’s second-largest economy. Many of Shanghai’s 25 million residents complain of loss of income, difficulty sourcing food and mental stress. But migrant workers, unable to work from home or earn a stable salary, have far worse off.
More than 290 million people from China’s vast countryside are migrant workers, drawn to coastal megacities especially to work in factories, construction, restaurants and other low-skilled jobs. Largely paid by the hour or by the day and without a stable contract, some can earn more than 10,000 yuan in a good month but most pocket much less.
Their cheap labor helped turn cities like Shanghai and Shenzhen into bastions of Chinese prosperity.
But the shutdowns have thrust many into precarious situations, laying bare deep inequalities in Chinese society at a time when President Xi Jinping, who is set to secure an unprecedented third term this year, has made “common prosperity ” a priority.