Migrant workers gather in front of one of the many labor recruitment agencies in Sanhe marketplace in Longhua, Shenzhen, Guangdong province.
Sanhe was once a mecca for people seeking work far from home, but the decades-old employment exchange in South China now faces an uncertain future, as Luo Weiteng reports from Shenzhen, Guangdong.
They look abandoned, forgotten and lost in another part of the world, but they aren't desolate, at least not yet.
Since the start of the reform and opening-up policy in the late 1970s, migrant workers from across the country have played a major role in the economic rise of Shenzhen, Guangdong province. Over the years, millions have poured into the city's Sanhe labor marketplace, having endured long rail journeys from their hometowns.
They staked their futures in Sanhe as a stepping stone to riches, and working tiring, low-paid jobs as Shenzhen raced forward with unbridled economic, technological and industrial development.
Nestled in Longhua subdistrict, Sanhe takes its name from one of the twin-pillar employment agencies in the area - Sanhe Human Resources Co and Haixinxin Human Resources Co. The agencies spearheaded a group of more than 10 companies that have sent millions of workers to a wide range of labor-intensive markets feeding industries in Shenzhen and across the Pearl River Delta. As a result, Sanhe became a buzzword for almost every migrant worker setting off on a journey "down south".
Amid the bustle of urban villages, or "villages in the city", the marketplace is also a shelter for debt-ridden and internet-addicted young people who are tired of the monotonous work on assembly lines and have chosen to pursue an unexamined life working as temporary laborers and are paid by the day.
They call themselves Sanhe dashen, or "gods". It's meant to be self-mocking, but the name indicates high self-esteem and is a comment on their ability to make a living without having to work like dogs.
Most dashen - unskilled, and with no savings or academic qualifications and, sometimes, no proper identification papers - would idle away the days, sometimes for years, if they were not packed off on "lightning" job assignments arranged by employment agencies.