On March 15, 2020, a bus arrived at a town in central China to transport residents to jobs outside the region. The red bus banner read: "[Migrants] go back to work point-to-point, the Human Resource Bureau helps door-to-door." This was just one of many buses in the "point-to-point" labor transport system that has become the standard way of resuming labor mobility as the lockdown eased in China.
Migrant workers [nongmingong] are transported from home to the workplace directly in groups, led by designated personnel, on designated vehicles, following designated routes, to the designated enterprise. Each worker must go through a health check before departure and have their temperature checked throughout the journey. Workers' personal information, compiled and updated by the organizers, must be handed over to employers on arrival.
"Point-to-point" transportation is organized jointly by the governments in the sending places and employers or governments on the receiving side to minimize the spread of Covid while securing a stable labor supply. The Chinese Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security set up The Platform for Rural-Urban Migrants Returning to Work, through which governments and employers cooperate to arrange the transportation of migrant workers. The National Road Passenger Service Management Platform, managed by the Ministry of Transport, collects detailed itineraries to ensure that rest areas on highways carry out health checks and provide food and water to workers on the buses. Through rigorous planning and cooperation, governments and corporations aim to eliminate gaps between "the home gate, the bus gate, and the factory gate" that would risk public health and the national economy.
Biao Xiang is Professor of Social Anthropology at the University of Oxford, and Director of Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology in Germany.