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Migrant workers embrace new professions amid epidemic

Author  :       Source  :    Xinhua     2020-03-25

HANGZHOU, March 24 (Xinhua) -- Gong Fei used to work at a construction site in east China's Shandong Province. But recently he has found a new job: an artificial intelligence (AI) trainer.

Gong, 26, currently works in a company in his home city of Tongren, southwest China's Guizhou Province.

Every day, Gong arranges hundreds of pictures on the computer screen into two categories. For example, for images of a football match, he needs to annotate them with "score" and "non-score."

"I need to teach the computer how to recognize the pictures according to the annotations," he said. "These days, more people have higher demands: they want to see more of their favorite stars or some particular scenes, and this is what I do; I make the systems smarter in this regard to catering to their needs."

Gong said the job is not easy and requires extreme patience.

"Sometimes a picture needs to have up to 100 annotations, and it can take six or seven hours just to do one picture," he said. "But I am glad they offered me this job during this difficult time."

Gong said he can work from home, slashing the costs compared to when he did not work in his home province.

During the coronavirus outbreak, many migrant workers that usually leave the countryside for better-paying jobs in big cities have found new professions.

A total of 250,000 programs were added on Alipay, the mobile payment app under e-commerce powerhouse Alibaba, during the epidemic. These programs offered 750,000 related jobs. In provinces with a large number of migrant workers, such as Shaanxi and Guizhou, thousands of the workers have chosen to stay in their hometown to become the "AI trainers."

Such jobs are not temporary and not low-paying ones. According to Alibaba, it has turned out 100,000 such AI trainers, with their average payment expected to rise by at least 50 percent.

"I heard that my job has been officially recognized as a new profession by the government," Gong said.

In early March, the government listed 16 jobs as new professions, including AI trainers.

"Stabilizing and increasing employment is quite important," said Yang Weiguo, with Renmin University of China. "The digital era has created new professions."

"The internet truly played an important part during the epidemic," said Lyu Peng, with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. "It digitalized China's service industry and became a new engine to power employment."

Editor: Yu Hui

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