China / Society

Spring Festival's labor exodus begins

By Zheng Jinran (China Daily) Updated: 2015-02-04 07:52

Spring Festival's labor exodus begins

A toddler and his mother wait for a train that would take them back to hometown, in Nanning, Guangxi, Feb 3, 2015. The mother works far away from her hometown. [Photo/IC]

With the early tide of migrant workers streaming out of Beijing and coastal cities for Spring Festival, some industries are already facing a labor shortage.

The bad news for some migrant workers is that weaker economic growth in the past year and industrial restructuring may leave them in dire straits when they return after the holiday, especially in the coastal regions.

Guangdong province, for example, has plenty of laborers to fill Spring Festival vacancies, according to Feng Xiliang, a labor rights expert at Capital University of Economics and Business. "Slower economic growth and the restructuring in some industries are major reasons for weaker labor demand after the holiday," Feng said.

Another factor affecting migrants is the relocation of labor-intensive companies, said Zhao Wei, a researcher in Labor Studies Center of Beijing Normal University.

Liu Hongfeng, who runs a restaurant in Beijing, has begun to worry because some migrant workers have already left town to be with relatives. "We have fewer waitresses, and it's hard to hire one before the festival," she said, adding she offered a free trip after the holiday to induce workers to stay.

Li Ganga, a YTO Express delivery worker in Beijing's Chaoyang district, said the branch he works at recently reduced the number of parcels that can be picked up.

"Labor-intensive industries like catering, housekeeping services and delivery will take a harder blow from the absence of migrant workers over the holiday," said Feng, the labor expert, adding that shortages of holiday labor have been seen since 2010.

This year, the exodus of migrant workers from major cities began much earlier than in the past, according to a survey released in December by a domestic services booking website in Shanghai,

Around 5 percent of respondents left their working cities 50 days ahead of the Feb 19, the survey said, based on company reports covering 350,000 individuals in the housekeeping services industry in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen.

Han Xiaowen contributed to this story.

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