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Reporters on the Job

What Chinese Workers Say: As part of his reporting on the shortage of workers in southern China, correspondent Simon Montlake spent an afternoon at a maid/nanny agency in Guangzhou talking to the boss and her migrant workers.

Foreign journalists often find it difficult to get ordinary Chinese to talk on the record. But Simon's interpreter's mother knew the woman who ran the nanny agency. "That personal connection helped. Bosses tend to be secretive. But I found the migrant workers willing to talk, as long as they understood that the story was economic and not political."

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"The women were mostly from a neighboring province," he says. "I asked one woman if she'd recommend to her friends back home to follow her to Guangzhou. She was raising three kids on the money she sent home, but looked doubtful.

"She told me that she was making more than $100 a month, at least twice what she started on in 2001. But it was a struggle to save money. A factory close to home paid only $50 a month, but the cost of living was cheaper there. And her own teenage son was already asking when he could leave school and go look for work in a coastal city, she admitted. So the lure of the big city is still here."

David Clark Scott
World editor

This week's look ahead

Monday, May 1:

Mexico City - "Nothing Gringo" boycott of US products and companies in Mexico, timed to coincide with the "Day Without Immigrants" boycott in US.

Manila, Philippines - Opposition groups call for Labor Day rallies to demand ouster of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

Tuesday, May 2:

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Paris - UN Security Council's five permanent members plus Germany discuss strategy for dealing with Iran's suspect nuclear program.

Wednesday, May 3:

N'Djamena, Chad - Presidential election, but opposition boycott. They say incumbent Idriss Deby plans fraud. Government under growing pressure to postpone ballot amid rebellion in eastern Chad.

Thursday, May 4:

Vilnius, Lithuania - Vice President Dick Cheney attends two-day summit of leaders from Baltic and Black Sea countries.

London - Local elections across Britain watched as barometer for Prime Minister Tony Blair's Labor Party; popularity at 19-year low.

Source: AP


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