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China’s migrant workers facing end of an era as the world’s factory winds down amid coronavirus

After spending more than half her life working in factories in Guangdong, Rao Dequn’s 25 years as a migrant worker could be coming to an end within a month, with the coronavirus and US-China trade war leading to another factory closure in Dongguan’s withering export-oriented manufacturing industry.

Mother-of-two Rao, 43, and around 900 colleagues were informed by letter at the end of July that Dongguan Dingyi Shoes Company would be closing in five weeks as their “employment at the company, on top of all other agreements you may have with the company, will be terminated”.

“It will be very difficult to find another stable factory to work for … many nearby factories are closing down or laying off workers,” said Guizhou native Rao, who has been working at the shoe factory for the last 10 years.

Like many of China’s 290 million migrant workers, Rao’s working life has been spent on production lines to earn a better income than was possible in her rural hometown but not enough to allow her to settle down in a city.


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