Changing color of China's blue-collar workers

Updated: 2015-07-31 12:17

By Tang Yue(

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Changing color of China's blue-collar workers

Meng Jirui, a student at Liaocheng University, processes a copper pipe at an automobile parts factory in Liaocheng, Shandong province.[Photo/China Daily]

Most news is easily forgotten. But one story two years ago about some villagers in Shandong province still sticks in my mind.

It was reported that more than 100 local wiremen and their families had immigrated to Australia, where they now own houses and cars.

Many of my friends and colleagues talked about it, saying they should have been blue-collar worker rather than white collar. Maybe they were just joking.

The story didn't fade away because my dad has been a wireman since he was 16. He is now 56. When my parents and I heard the news, my mum said to my dad: "You were born in the wrong time and wrong place; otherwise I would have been living a much more comfortable life with you."

She wasn't joking.

For the past few decades, the Chinese blue-collar workers first made the country self-sufficient and then turned it into the world factory. They usually start at early age, like my dad, receive little training and little income.

I remember when I was a kid, many parents with similar background would warn their children: "You must study hard; otherwise you would end up in the factory like us and all of our efforts would be vain."

Today, to be a blue-collar worker might still not be the first option for most of the young people, but the future looks much brighter than the old days, at least according to the students I recently met at the Tianjin Sino-German Vocational Technical College.

They all received three-year vocational training, some splitting their time between the classroom and a foreign company under the German dual vocational education mode.

The bright ones even went overseas as part of the exchange program.

Yin Yiming, a graduate of the dual vocational education program run by the college in Tianjin and Bosch Rexroth (Beijing) Hydraulic Co. Ltd., was selected to go to Bamberg in Germany for six weeks last summer to study.

He told me it was really beyond his and his family's expectation. "You know, normally in China, only students in universities have access to exchange programs to study overseas. Who has ever heard of a chance like that for vocational college students?"

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