Inland companies struggle to retain workers

Updated: 2012-02-08 10:34


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CHANGSHA - A furious battle for manpower has erupted in China as manufacturers shift production westward from increasingly expensive coastal areas to less-developed inland provinces.

At a career fair held Monday in central China's Hunan province, more than 6,000 positions at 80 enterprises were advertised. But Guo Hongbo, the human resources manager of a branch factory of Tsingtao Brewery Co Ltd, received only seven applicants.

Guo expected to hire at least 50 laborers for a recently established production line in one of the company's factories.

"Not only do we compete with the coastal areas, where migrant workers used to flow, but more companies that have relocated their production inland are grabbing laborers," said Guo.

Guo said the company started hiring on the last day of the Spring Festival holiday. It hopes to attract returnees who have been working in factories along China's coast.

The company offers wages as high as 1,900 yuan ($351), nearly as much as those offered in the export hub of Shenzhen, Guo said.

Favorable welfare packages that include medical and social insurance are being offered by the companies to entice potential employees.

"There are many returnees who choose to work at home, but there are still not enough to meet the aggressive demands of rapidly expanding enterprises," Guo said.

As a result, companies such as Tsingtao have begun to dispatch recruiting teams to remote areas as Guizhou province, where plenty of cheap labor still exists.

"We even encourage our employees to lure their relatives or classmates," Guo said. "Those who introduce new applicants can receive compensation for their effort."

Guo's concern is echoed by Zhou Yingjing, the human resources director of Chutian Technology Co Ltd. The local medical appliance company has been expanding at a tremendous pace in recent times.

"Hiring has become a headache, as skilled workers now vote with their feet, changing their jobs if they are not happy," Zhou said.

Zhou said the younger generation of migrant workers, particularly those who born in the 1980s and 1990s, are more prone to changing jobs without warning.

"It has created additional hiring difficulties, as we have invested a great deal in their training and then they leave without a word," Zhou said.

Luo Weihua, the labor bureau chief of Hunan's Ningxiang county, said labor exports defined central China's role during the country's economic boom of the last three decades

"The central provinces have been expanding fast, requiring larger numbers of skilled workers and making it hard to fill in the gaps," Luo said.

Zhang Chewei, a researcher at China's Academy of Social Science, said tension in central China can be attributed to China's pressing economic transformation.

"What lies beneath the facts is China's changing labor structure," Zhang said.

"More people have acquired access to higher education with China's expansion of university enrollment, which has aggressively depleted the supply of low-level laborers. The situation will likely become worse in light of weakened population growth," Zhang said.