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Feb 6, 2010
China's Ant tribe
A million frustrated graduates swarm squalid colonies, posing a social quandary
By Sim Chi Yin, China Correspondent <!-- by line -->
The problem of graduate unemployment and under-employment has been growing since 2003, when a record number of students graduated four years after China had raised higher-education enrolment by a massive 48 per cent.
In Tangjialing village north of Beijing, an 'ant colony' has sprung up where 50,000 graduates huddle in narrow, seedy streets. The locals earn extra cash by feeding them. -- ST PHOTOS: SIM CHI YIN
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BEIJING - THEY are smart, industrious and marginalised, huddling together for comfort. Hordes of China's underemployed or underpaid university graduates have formed squalid enclaves on the fringes of the country's big cities, earning themselves the label yi zu or 'ant tribe'. As their ranks swell, some observers have warned of the dangers that a mass of young and frustrated people - doing jobs they are overqualified for - might pose to social stability. Last month, several delegates at Beijing's annual parliamentary session urged the government to build better housing for these graduates and to do more to help them find jobs. There are a million 'ants' massed around major cities, with about 100,000 in Beijing alone, estimates sociologist Lian Si, who led a two-year study that was published in a book last September. A typical 'ant' hails from rural China, is a graduate of a non-brand-name university aged between 22 and 29, and earns no more than 2,000 yuan (S$414) a month working long hours as an insurance salesman, computer technician or waiter.
Read the special report in Saturday's edition of The Straits Times.
MANAMA (Bahrain) - THE Government's recent moves to slow the influx of foreigners do not mark a 'sudden turnaround' in policy, said Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong yesterday. Rather, it is simply a recognition that the country is nearing what it can accommodate. While foreign worker numbers may still rise, it will now grow more slowly. Speaking to Singapore reporters in Bahrain at the end of a six-day visit to the Middle East, SM Goh explained that Singapore needed to be open to foreign workers in the past to fuel its rapid growth.
'If you look at the last decade, we wanted to grow fast. And there were opportunities to grow fast. Employers were crying for workers. We were trying to tighten the dependency on foreign workers, but the demand for goods and services from Singapore was high, so we liberalised. Then once we reach the limit, you've got to tighten,' he said.
The Government, he said, constantly monitors its policies and tweaks them where needed. 'Past models which have worked may not work in the future, so we've got to constantly monitor, adjust when necessary, sometimes even discard. But in our case it's modifying the model, not discarding the old model,' he said.