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Young Chinese workers stranded by snow happy to be away from home for the holidays
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    SHENZHEN, China — Xiao Wang works in a massive factory in southern China that makes Apple iPods. But lately, he’s been spending his time preparing for the Lunar New Year, cooking feasts with fatty slices of pork carved from a pig’s head.
    The 23-year-old migrant worker is supposed to be home hundreds of miles away celebrating China’s most important holiday, which began Thursday. But the worst snow storms in half a century kept him and millions of other workers from traveling.
    Many said they were sad to be stranded at their factories, but Wang couldn’t be happier.
    ‘‘Actually, I would rather be here with my friends. We’re having more fun and there’s much more freedom,’’ said Wang, as he and three co-workers watched a butcher in an alley market chop up pork, mix it with scallions and toss it into a plastic bag.
    The worker — who asked to be called ‘‘Xiao Wang’’ or ‘‘Little Wang’’ because his employer doesn’t allow him to speak to reporters — is part of a new generation of migrant laborers in China’s manufacturing juggernaut.
    The young workers have fewer ties to the countryside. Unlike previous generations, they’re not interested in saving money to resettle in their village, marry a rural sweetheart and tend the family’s plot of land. Like Wang, they enjoy the city life and want to stay.
    Wang works for Foxconn International Holdings Ltd., a sprawling factory complex in the boomtown of Shenzhen, close to Hong Kong. About 270,000 workers are employed at Foxconn, which also has produced Nintendo Co. video game consoles, Motorola Inc. phones and Lenovo Group computers.
    ‘‘I really hate the job. It’s awful and boring,’’ said Wang, adding that he makes the equivalent of $236 a month.
    But he said he liked his lifestyle in the city, and he looked urbane with a spiky hairdo and a new red jacket. Many workers live in the factory dormitory, but Wang and his friends rent their own places.
    When snow storms began shutting down the railways last week, hundreds of thousands of migrant workers were unable to leave Guangdong province for the holiday — part of the world’s biggest annual mass movement of people. The government urged the workers to spend the holiday in Guangdong instead.
    About 12 million of the 30 million migrant workers in Guangdong decided to stay there, the official Xinhua News Agency cited the Guangdong Provincial Department of Labor and Social Security as saying.
    The government has urged factories to make sure the workers have a festive holiday. Foxconn workers said they were happy so far. The company served them a holiday meal Wednesday, and more dinners were planned for the next three days.
    But Wang and his friends were passing on the free meals in favor of making their own. For entertainment, they bought a pirated DVD of a concert by Hong Kong pop star Andy Lau.
    They were very different from the workers who got stranded at the railway stations. Many were in their 30s and 40s, with children and spouses back home whom they were desperate to see.
    The majority of Chinese — about 737 million people in a population of 1.3 billion, or 57 percent — still live in the countryside, Xinhua reported last year. But it said the rural population has declined from 74 percent in 1990.
    Settling in the cities has become easier for migrants because the government has relaxed restrictions that once drove people back to the countryside, said Ellen David Friedman, a visiting lecturer at the Social Work Research and Education Center at Zhongshan University in the southern city of Guangzhou.
    Foxconn worker Wu Zhengyuan, 18, moved to the city a few months ago and is already leaning toward settling down.
    ‘‘I’m still young and I’m not sure what I’ll do for sure,’’ said Wu. ‘‘But I like it here. It’s so much more comfortable than home.’’

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