Just Another Shanghai Street Corner

Just another Shanghai street corner
Working on the new metro line 10

Ever wondered about those constructions sites you see everywhere in China? Construction foreman Mr. Shen (age 55) filled me in on what goes on at a typical Shanghai site. The salary figure he gave for average workers – Y2000 per month plus healthcare – is interesting when compared with a 2007 study by Fudan University, which found that migrant workers across China only averaged about Y1200 per month.

How long have you worked in construction?

Over 20 years.

What are you working on at this site (South Henan Road and Renmin Road intersection)?

We’re building a tunnel under the Huangpu River for traffic to Pudong. At the same spot, under the traffic tunnel there will also be a new metro line. Line 10.

When did you start construction and how long will it take to finish?

We began two years ago and plan on completing the project this October–before the beginning of the World Expo next year at the latest.

How many hours a day do you work?

Eight hours a day.

Does everyone work the same number of hours?

It depends on what needs to be done. Sometimes we need to work overtime to complete a job on time.

It seems like many construction sites in Shanghai are still busy at night–do you work on them 24 hours a day?

Yes, there are two 12-hour shifts per day, seven days a week.

Are most workers here from other provinces or are they from Shanghai?

They are all from other provinces, but the management prefers that the foremen be Shanghainese.

How many people are currently working at this site?

About 200.

How long do most construction workers stay in Shanghai?

Everyone goes back home for the Chinese New Year. If they like Shanghai they come back. If not, they go to a different city.

How much do most workers earn per month?

About 2000 yuan (US$293) a month, plus medical insurance. The government now requires all construction companies to provide insurance for employees.

What’s the average age of most workers?

On average I’d say most are in their thirties.

Do people come alone or with their families?

They come without their families, but they often already know someone from their hometown on a site who gets them the job. Everyone comes alone, but then they all leave together!