China in a pickle over migration

AFP-JIJI

Tracking the flows of China’s 263 million migrant workers is a huge challenge, but officials have found the answer in packs of pickled root vegetables.

Zhacai, made from parts of a mustard plant variety, is a cheap and popular dish among Chinese migrant workers.

Normally demand for such low-value consumable foods is stable in a city unless there is a change in the migrant population, so the National Development and Reform Commission, China’s top economic planning agency, is using it as a substitute indicator, the Economic Observer reported. The “zhacai index” measures changes in sales by regional share and “can reflect the population flow trend,” it quoted an unnamed commission official as saying.