STEEL ran in Zhang Cheng’s family for three generations. His grandfather mined iron ore. His father got a job in the big state-owned steel mill just outside Jinan, capital of Shandong province. His mother worked in the on-site hospital.
And Mr Zhang went to the mill-run school, graduating to a job in its foundry, where, in the heat of the blast furnace, he rolled metal into thin bars for construction. But after nearly two decades in Jinan Steel, he worked his last day there this summer. In the name of “capacity reduction”—a government policy to rein in excess production of steel—the plant stopped operating in July, and Mr Zhang went on the dole.
Since they worked for a state-owned company, the local government has helped him and the 20,000 others who lost jobs find new ones. But it has been a struggle for Mr Zhang, a soft-spoken man. Openings in Jinan are mainly in the service industry—as a waiter in restaurants or an attendant at a station on the new underground.