Middle-aged man Chen Dafu has been working as a middleman at Maju Bridge for several years. His daily job involves walking around and recruiting people. He is used to wandering around Maju Bridge Commercial Street, his eyes scanning the surroundings, searching for those with a sense of confusion. He says that since the beginning of this spring, the daily wages of temporary workers at Maju Bridge have decreased by varying amounts, ranging from 50 to 100 yuan.
Competition among intermediaries here is fierce, each specializing in different verticals. Most of the resources in Chen Dafu’s hands are related to security and inspections. He gives an example: if security guards used to earn 180 yuan per day last year, now it’s less than 130 yuan.
As for the speculation about the price reduction, Chen Dafu is not entirely sure. However, he is certain that since the easing of the pandemic, especially after the Chinese New Year in February, there have been many more people at Maju Bridge. He says, “It’s a simple supply and demand relationship. With more people, the wages naturally decrease.”
In the evening, a familiar woman passes by, and they greet each other. Chen Dafu asks her, “Have you found work for tomorrow?” The woman pouts, indicating that she hasn’t found anything yet, and complains as she walks away, saying, “I asked about a postal sorting job for 120 yuan. It’s only worth 10 yuan per hour. Who would do it?”
The day at Maju Bridge starts at 4 or 5 in the morning when the sky is already a pale blue. People emerge from nearby urban villages and disperse into two groups. One group consists of those who have already secured jobs the previous night, needing to catch the earliest bus. The other group is composed of people preparing to find work that day. They head to a crossroads at the end of Maju Bridge Commercial Street.
The intermediaries are already waiting there.
If the entire daily wage labor market at Maju Bridge were a pond of water, the temperature of that water is changing rapidly. Many people say that Maju Bridge is a place where survival is paramount. In this physically demanding environment, the employment criteria are often straightforward: youth and good health. The standards are strict, and both qualities are indispensable.
However, old age cannot be deceived; it is a loyal servant of time. In Maju Bridge, older workers may become the first to be eliminated.