(MENAFN -Arab News) Near Beijing’s 600 million Olympic stadium, migrant worker Ye Yiwen, her husband and two children cram into a tiny underground room, sheltering from the Chinese capital’s biting winter and soaring property prices.
Ye’s family left behind a 200-square-meter house in a rural outpost 1,000 kms away to live in the dimly-lit basement, which — at 10 square meters — has just enough space for two beds and one table.
“Of course the house in our old village is more comfortable, but this is where the work is,” said Ye, who declined to give her real name.
“And I do miss my flowers,” she added with resignation.
The decades-long movement of hundreds of millions of people from China’s countryside to its cities is the greatest human migration in history, but those who make the journey do not necessarily find prosperity at their destinations.
About 281,000 people live underground in Beijing according to city authorities, although reports say closer to one million inhabit the capital’s basements, former air raid shelters and other subterranean dwellings.
The “Rat Tribe,” as they are dubbed locally, are mainly poor migrant workers seeking new opportunities in China’s booming cities.
Ye left her village of a few hundred people in the eastern province of Anhui 15 years ago to live in the bustling capital.
A domestic cleaner who works for a family in the Guanjuncheng — ‘City of Champions’ — compound yards from the Olympic village, she brought her sons, now 20 and 21, to Beijing not long after they finished school.
“We don’t get in each other’s way in our room, although we know it is not ideal,” she said.