A cadre’s healthy preoccupation with regular sex

Mimi Lau
03 April 2010

Passionate sex is wonderful. Most of us view it as an indispensable element of a healthy lifestyle. But for the 30 million migrant workers in the Pearl River Delta, it amounts to a luxury.

Life is harsh and mundane for the workers, stuck in humid tents on construction sites or in factories’ cramped staff quarters, doing extra for a minimum wage. With their partners on the other side of the country, no wonder that many young men and women are constantly sexually suppressed.

The Guangzhou Daily cited a 2008 survey as saying that 29 out of 46 migrant workers aged from 25 to 30 years old had not had sex for at least half a year – 14 of them for more than a year.

Some chose to visit cheap local brothels or have casual sex with fellow workers. A survey last year revealed that more than 30 per cent of male rural migrants in Guangdong had had more than one sex partner, while 30 per cent of married male rural migrants had visited a prostitute at some point, China News Service reported.

Nor is the problem solely related to men. A report by the Southern Metropolis News last month said female rural migrant workers in factories in Dongguan had agreed to share a male partner because of the sex ratio imbalance in factory areas. Additional factors such as the lack of sex education and the high mobility of migrant workers means that their sexual frustration creates other social and health problems, such as a growing rate of sexually transmitted diseases, HIV/Aids and even sex crimes.

In Chongyang county, Hubei, 73 HIV/Aids cases were reported last year, with 59 contracted when the person was employed as a migrant worker, China News Service reported.

There are about 150 million migrant workers travelling around the mainland, looking for jobs. About a fifth work in Guangdong.

Sex has long been a taboo subject on the mainland. Many people belonging to the older generation consider sex as shameful or dirty and refuse to talk about it.

Many officials are embarrassed to discuss the matter, but Guangdong birth control chief Zhang Feng says it’s not a trivial issue. Thanks to his warning that migrant workers’ sexual frustration could cause a rise in crimes, the matter is gaining some coverage.

During the Guangdong provincial Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference meeting in January, Zhang urged fellow delegates to address the problem, saying it could threaten social stability. It was the second year that Zhang had raised the issue at the Guangdong CPPCC. But his proposal failed to win endorsement this year or last. It has, however, caused a stir on the internet.

Why, he asked, did officials consider it their duty to come to the rescue if an area was hit by a flood or drought, but ignore this problem, which was potentially of a similar magnitude.

“Leaders are concerned about people’s livelihoods, so why not about their sex life and health as well? Party chiefs at every rank really need to look into it.”

This year, Zhang’s office is planning to hand out more than 100 million condoms, mostly to migrant workers in Guangzhou, Dongguan, Foshan and Shenzhen. But it’s a complicated problem that condoms alone can’t solve.

The government had done nothing to slow the growth of HIV/Aids, he said.

He called on the government to launch an investigation, saying workers’ sex lives were linked to birth control, unwanted pregnancies, abandoned babies, family problems and sex crimes.

“To care about migrant workers is to teach them how to solve their sex problems … This year we need to continue to press on in dealing with these issues,” he said.

Leaving behind partners and children trapped in poverty, migrant workers shed blood and sweat to build China’s infrastructure and make the world’s garments and leather shoes.

Their problem is directly contributing to a range of serious health and security issues threatening the country’s social stability.

They are no different than you and me when it comes to their sexual needs. They should be taken seriously starting right now.


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