Portraits of Chinese Workers

Xiao Hongxia, 31, from Shaoyang, Hunan

When Xiao Hongxia began working at a factory making photograph frames
at the age of 17, she
Song Chao for TIME

Huang Dongyan, 36, from Shaoyang, Hunan
For Huang Dongyan, her toughest days as a migrant worker came in 2004. The economy was weak, and she was having trouble finding a job. So she joined up with her brother to open a small restaurant. But the restaurant continually lost money, compounding her troubles. "There were several months that I was full of suffering," she says. This spring Huang, 36, found employment at Shenzhen Guangke's LED factory. Her work site is more than a day's journey from her hometown, so she spends months away from her 15-year-old daughter Zhang Juan and 3-year-old son Zhang Yi. The children are taken care of by family members. Huang longs to return home to be with them. But she also knows that she might not find work there, and if she did the wages would be much lower. So Huang stays in Shenzhen to provide for her family's future. "The money I earn, it's for them," she says.

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