Page last updated at 14:17 GMT, Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Chinese migrant workers live in toilet

One of the toilet-dwellers ( image courtesy Hu Yuanyong/Zhejiang Morning Express)
The toilet-dwellers have been living in their unusual home for several months

Ten Chinese migrant workers are living in a public toilet in the city of Hangzhou, according to local media.

They are believed to have been living there for several months, and the toilet is now kitted out with a bed, cooking facilities and a television.

One of the women said she could not afford to rent a room or pay normal living expenses.

Correspondents say the story highlights the poor pay and living conditions of many migrant workers in China.

China's rapid economic growth has transformed the country, says the BBC's China analyst Shirong Chen - but many migrant workers are struggling.

China has an estimated 20 million migrants, who have moved from the poorer countryside to find work in the rapidly expanding cities and manufacturing hubs.

Strong smell

A woman called Ai, who lives in the female toilets, told the Zhejiang Morning Express: "We have got used to the strong smell of urine. The worst thing is that people keep stealing my stoves and cooking pots."

The toilet in Hangzhou ( image courtesy HU Yuanyong/Zhejiang Morning Express)
The migrant workers have tried to make the toilets look like home

Ai's friend Wang Yuhua lives in the male toilets.

"The bad thing is there are mice everywhere," she said.

Local Hangzhou residents are reportedly sympathetic to the plight of the migrant workers and generally avoid using the facilities.

But some are still surprised by the sight of the toilets' new residents.

"When I ran inside to use the toilet, I was stunned to see several people sitting around, chatting or doing things," Mr Du told the newspaper.

One of the migrant workers even said that a friend of hers was a little envious of her, as she could live in the toilets rent-free.

But a spokesman for the local council warned: "It's forbidden to live inside the toilets, as they are supposed to be for public use."

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