Farmers wait for their potential employers at a roadside labor market in Shijiazhuang, Hebei province. [Photo by Zhang Yu/chinadaily.com.cn]
Wang Shuji is typical of the workers who gather each morning at local labor
Wang, 43, is a farmer who seek short-term employment in towns or cities near his home. Capable of doing most kinds of odd jobs, he mainly works at construction sites, building walls or carrying materials.
Most mornings, he gets up at 6 o'clock, eats some instant noodles and rides his electric bike the 20-plus kilometers from his home in Dazhaicun village to Shijiazhuang, Hebei's capital.
"I usually rush there, not to punch in like company employees, but to be picked up by employers as soon as possible," he said.
After he gets to the market, he must wait for employers to arrive, then rush toward them.
"When an employer came, there would be a stampede toward him or her, just like fans toward singing stars," Wang said. "But we were not chasing after stars, we were scrambling for jobs the employer was going to provide."
He speaks loudly, trying to be heard over the other job hunters.
"What kind of workers do you need? How many workers do you want? How much would you pay me for a day? I can do it. Take me. OK, where is the workplace? How should I go? I have an electric bikes, so I can go by myself," Wang said, recalling the exchanges.
After the questioning, employers usually decide within five minutes whether someone was suitable for the job.
"There are scores of peasant workers there, so the chance of being chosen would be very low if you are not quick enough," Wang said. "If I came early, I would have more chance to compete for jobs and start a day's work early, which would lead to more money."