In the past few years, China has seen millions of rural workers migrating to cities seeking employment. Numbers reached 269 million in 2013 – a figure that is expected to rise progressively in the foreseeable future.
This switch has exposed the troubles farmers are facing in making the shift to urban labor markets. Migrant workers are relatively poorly educated, with the majority lacking skills to make them suitable candidates in city job markets.
To overcome this issue, the World Bank-supported Rural Migrant Skills Development and Employment Project was established in the provinces of Ningxia, Anhui and Shandong, giving rural migrants better access to skills development opportunities and providing them with employment services and worker protection.
In rural Ningxia, the land is barren and the climate harsh. With this environment, as less arable land becomes available, more people are in need of non-agricultural jobs.
And in such a mountainous and remote region, it is unrealistic for members of the community to go to formal training schools. So the local government decided to bring vocational training to the peoples’ doorstep – using a vehicle that doubles as a mobile classroom.
The vehicle travels from village to village and is designed to meet the needs of local people, with a variety of training from making ethnic clothing to cooking Muslim food (Ningxia has China’s largest Muslim community).
Ma Haihua, a villager in Huangdubao County, Ningxia, has gone from a student in the mobile classroom to a restaurant owner.
She learned how to use spices, make cold dishes, cut potato, and stir-fry mutton. The cooking course was, for her, a life-changing experience.
When she was engaged in farming, her annual income was 3,000-4,000 yuan. After she opened a restaurant that specializes in local Muslim cuisine, her earnings grew to 70,000-80,000 yuan a year.
With her improved lifestyle, Ma bought a car and built a new house. “With this restaurant, I have money and can support my entire family like never before,” she said with a broad smile.
In Guyuan county, Ma Shijie returned home to attend the free skills training offered by the government after spending a few years doing menial jobs on construction sites in cities.
He is now learning how to operate an excavator.
“I like the training. It makes me feel upbeat,” said Ma. “Some of my friends who worked as excavators could earn as much as 8,000 yuan a month. Before, I could only do odd jobs, like mixing cement or carrying bricks and earned 3,000 yuan a month at the most.”
Ningxia is home to more than two million Muslims. It is part of their tradition to learn Arabic and study the Koran, the holy book of Islam.
As China strengthened its economic and trade ties with Arab countries in recent years, mastery of Arabic now also means better chances in the job market.
To make the training courses more relevant to market needs, the government also helps Arabic schools extend their curriculum from language and Islamic culture to a more comprehensive vocational education. A key part of this initiative is the field of business and trade.
With World Bank support, a set of Arabic trade and business service training materials have been developed and are now in use. They cover international trade, law, business etiquette as well as communication.