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Chinese construction sites see rise in female workers

Publication Date : 02-05-2014


"I work from 6 am to 8 pm every day and have hardly any holiday time throughout the year," said Li Guozhi, a 47-year-old female construction worker in Beijing's Fengtai district.

Li, from Hubei province, came to Beijing in 2003 with her husband. They both work on a construction site, moving bricks, transporting sand and painting buildings. "I have to work hard every day to support my family. However, the salary is very low, only 20 yuan per day, if you can imagine that."

She said she doesn't get overtime pay or other subsidies and the working and living environment is terrible.

"Dust flies about at the construction site. My three children, my husband and I live in a small and shabby house on-site, which is not heated in the winter, and the neighbours can be heard loudly and clearly.

"I am in poor health, but the boss doesn't allow me to have a vacation. Furthermore, I didn't sign any contracts with the employers, so the boss often doesn't pay me on time, and I can't get social welfare or medical benefits."

Working on a construction site can be dangerous. And although she and her husband do the same work, she makes less money than he does.

"It is unfair," she said.

"This kind of physical work is not suitable for women, but I don't know what else I can do," Li sighed, adding that the site has about 18 workers, of which about six are female.

"I'm tired every day, but I carry on so that my husband and I can raise our family."

Li is one of hundreds of thousands of women working in the construction industry across the country. And more and more are cropping up on construction sites in recent years.

According to a 2013 survey conducted by the Little Bird Mutual-Aid Hotline for Migrant Workers, a grassroots organization based in Beijing, more than 10 per cent of construction workers were women.


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