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Many grads in Hubei caught in poverty trap
Sat, May 29, 2010
The Straits Times

WUHAN, CHINA - Hubei has become the first Chinese province to conduct a study on its 'ant tribe', releasing a report this week on the number and background of the lowly paid and poorly housed young graduates living in its capital.

The study shows that Wuhan city is now home to between 30,000 and 60,000 'ant tribe' members - underemployed or underpaid university graduates who cram into squalid rented rooms in big cities, reported the Changjiang Daily.

Conducted by the Hubei Human Resources Service Centre and Wuhan University in March this year, the study also revealed that almost half of the 'ant tribe' earn less than 1,500 yuan (S$309) a month.

Nearly half of these young graduates require financial support from their families.

Just one in 10 'ant tribe' members in Wuhan earns more than 2,500 yuan monthly, said the study.

About 80 per cent of the 'ant tribe' belong to the 'poor second generation' - children from poor families. On the whole, more than 90 per cent of the 'ant tribe' members in Hubei province are from counties, cities and prefectures outside the provincial capital.

One of the study's researchers, Professor Li Min from Wuhan University's School of Politics and Public Administration, told Changjiang Daily that the report shows that the poor are caught in a vicious circle.

'Among my students, those who have obtained jobs in the banks either have parents or other relatives working there, or have connections to officials in the sector,' he was quoted as saying.

'Those who come from less privileged backgrounds are obviously at a disadvantage when it comes to job- hunting.'

Prof Li also said that the growth of the 'ant tribe' in the big cities was an indication of rural-urban inequality, which has led to young migrants moving to urban centres for better employment prospects, the newspaper reported.

This article was first published in The Straits Times.

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