Looking homeward for work
By Zhan Lisheng (China Daily)
Updated: 2008-11-14 11:17

He drove a truck for a Taiwanese-funded shoemaker in the Pearl River Delta boomtown of Dongguan, clocking in three years at the company before it went bust last month.

With his former boss nowhere to be found, 32-year-old Hu Yujun decided to head back to his hometown in Sichuan province with several other colleagues.

After two weeks of "idling" at home, Hu found himself seeking his fortune in the south again and applied to be a truck driver for a construction firm in Guangzhou, Guangdong province.

"I had learned of the government's ambitious plan to reinvigorate the economic slowdown. Guangdong has also announced an enormous investment plan," Hu told China Daily on Tuesday, after arriving in Guangzhou.

"I heard a construction company here needed truck drivers, so I hurried back," he said.

The hopes of Hu and others like him ride on a massive, $586-billion economic stimulus package unveiled by the government last week to ward off the impact of a worldwide recession.

Looking homeward for work

Housing, transportation and industry are some of the areas expected to benefit from the funding. About 2.37 trillion yuan has been planned primarily for infrastructure development.

"I'm sure this construction company I am applying for will see more business than any company I had worked for in Dongguan," Hu said.

"Even a migrant worker like myself cannot be deaf and dumb to what is going on in the outside world. Surviving the global financial crisis and facing an economic downturn, these challenges are never far from us," Hu said.

Working for an original equipment manufacturer that relied on overseas orders was also the last thing he would do, Hu said.

"Whether or not these companies can survive the winter is uncertain," he said.

"Even if they do survive, workers might not be able to get their salaries in time or in full."

"Almost every day in the past few months, we have received tip-offs from migrant workers about their overdue wages or bosses who have absconded," said Wang Ye, a reporter with the Shenzhen Evening News.

"It's not just the labor-intensive companies we hear about; so-called hi-tech and services firms, which rely mostly on export-oriented business, are also involved," Wang said.

However, hi-tech companies that depend more on the domestic market seem to be faring better.

"We aim to recruit more than 1,000 professionals this year, and we will recruit even more in the coming year," Kenneth Yu, managing director of 3M China, said on Sunday.

Yu acknowledged that 3M China's heavy dependence on the domestic market is an important reason why his company has been scarcely affected by the economic slowdown.

About 90 percent of 3M China's diversified products and technological solutions are for the China market.

Still, Zheng Zizhen, director of the sociology and population research institute under the Guangdong Academy of Social Sciences, is not so optimistic over employment prospects in Guangdong, especially in the Pearl River Delta region.

"Guangdong has a foreign-oriented economy, the global economic turmoil naturally exerts negative impact on export-oriented enterprises," he said.

Compulsory measures to have employers deposit money for wages, as practiced in the building sector in Guangdong, as well as closer supervision on enterprises that default on salaries and those on the verge of bankruptcy, are necessary," Zheng said.

Similarly, he said a channel for the retrenched to receive unemployment pension and free occupational training programs are paramount.

Local government should also do more to help troubled enterprises raise funds and have access to credit from commercial banks, Zheng said.

"Layoffs are inevitable and will even worsen, despite measures of the State and the province to stem the economic downtrend," Zheng said.

"What's worse, the collapse of one company can trigger off the demise of several more related enterprises. The domino effect can be frightening," Zheng said.

Looking homeward for work

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