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What do Chinese migrant workers do on break?

By By Carol Huang / January 27, 2009



At the sweater factory I toured in Dongguan, to report a story on Chinese migrant workers, everyone broke for lunch soon after I arrived. They got 1 ½ hours – a helpful respite for those nine-hour days, plus overtime.

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Most hurried to the canteen, where cooks scooped veggies and tofu onto rice bowls, which they ate with friends in a big cafeteria, a TV playing in the background. Employees higher on the totem pole ate in a separate room, and got meat.

After lunch many workers retreated to their dorms. A few sunned themselves just outside the company gates, leaning sleepily against the pink-tiled walls.

Some workers caught up on chores, hanging sheets and clothes on the roof of their dorm. Chinese New Year is a common time for “spring cleaning,” the manager showing me around explained.

One woman sat outside her room – knitting, of all things. An odd hobby for workers who make sweaters all day long, I thought to myself. But this person worked in the kitchen, I was told.

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