Labor shortages hit factories
By Qiu Quanlin (China Daily)
Updated: 2008-04-07 10:39

A growing number of small- and medium-sized toy and garment factories in Shantou city, South China's Guangdong Province, have been affected by labor shortages since the Lunar New Year, a local official says.

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"Shantou is well known for its privately owned toy and garment-making businesses. But now an increasing number of enterprises cannot expand this year due to labor shortages," says Chen Yaowu, an official with the Shantou economic and trade bureau.

In Chenghai district, home to the vast majority of Shantou's toy and garment enterprises, the shortage has grown to 50,000, Chen says.

According to Chen, up to 95 percent of employees in these toy- and garment-making enterprises are migrant workers.

"But due to severe competition and an unbalanced industrial structure, enterprises have found it hard to hire new workers," he says.

To tackle the problem, many local enterprises have shifted their business from manufacturing to trading. Guangdong Aihua Sweater & Craft Co Ltd based in Chenghai is one of them.

Cai Aihua, the company's general manager, says: "We have shifted our focus to trading and strengthening research and development force, in a bid to avoid the labor shortage problem."

That means that all products ordered by overseas clients will be made by other factories but labeled by Aihua, Cai says.

"We will also attach great importance to product quality. The shift has allowed us to focus more on developing a new market," he says.

For labor-intensive manufacturers, Cai suggests they also introduce more state-of-the-art facilities to reduce the number of workers.

Meanwhile, many migrant workers say they tend to stay if companies provide better working and living conditions.

Xu Chunyan, a migrant worker from Hubei province, says: "If a company provides a good accommodation, we won't leave".

Xu has worked at the Guangdong Auldey Animation & Toy Ltd, one of the top toy makers in Guangdong, since she came to Shantou five years ago.

(For more biz stories, please visit Industries)